Haydn: ‘Paukenmesse’, Mozart: Symphony no. 40
- New Hall, Winchester College
Eleanor Gregory – soprano
Catherine Backhouse – mezzo soprano
Richard Dowling – tenor
Christopher Foster – bass
Winchester Music Club
Winchester Music Club Orchestra
Brian Howells – leader
Nicholas Wilks – conductor
There was a retiring collection for Key Changes Music Therapy.
by Duncan Eves
An edited version of this full review appeared in the April 18th edition of The Hampshire Chronicle.
Everything in right place in lithe and expressive performance
It was a freezing cold March weekend and the bitter, chill wind seemed to penetrate right through the clothing: thus a capacity audience settled down in Winchester College’s New Hall to hear Mozart’s restless and emotionally turbulent 40th Symphony and Haydn’s dramatic ‘Mass in Time of War’. Nothing chilly about these performances from conductor Nicholas Wilks and his Music Club forces and, as for the wind…well they were on top form, with some beautifully controlled phrasing and tuning in the Mozart symphony. The balance between the strings and the wind in the first movement, the dancing rhythms of the Minuet and the symphony’s many exposed instrumental passages: everything was in its right place in this lithe and expressive performance.
The Haydn Mass moves from the cheerful mood of the Gloria through to the dramatic and threatening music of the Agnus Dei, with its powerful use of the kettledrums (hence the other name for this Mass: ‘Paukenmesse’ or ‘Kettledrum Mass’). The choir captured well the vitality and joy of the Gloria, the weightier mood of the Credo and the sense of awe during the Incarnatus. Bass soloist Christopher Foster produced a rich tone in the Gloria and mezzo-soprano Catherine Backhouse had a restrained lyricism in the Sanctus. As Haydn’s orchestral texture became increasingly tense in the Benedictus, so soprano Eleanor Gregory and tenor Richard Dowling maintained a mood of calm lyricism, which made the outbreak of menace in the Agnus Dei all the more powerful. The martial mood of the music at this point makes for an intense and emotional experience, which the assembled forces captured superbly well. It was left to the choir to take us away from the terror of war back to light and hope with the Dona Nobis Pacem and some uplifting singing creating a mood of optimism.
Looking ahead, I see that the Music Club will next be performing Nielsen’s cheerful and folksy short choral work ‘Springtime in Funen’. As we stepped out into that cold March evening again springtime seemed a long way off…!
The concert was in aid of Key Changes, a music therapy charity supported by the Winchester-based music educator and composer Martin Read who, as many will know, died tragically and unexpectedly last autumn.