Concert November 2007
Beethoven: Missa Solemnis
- Claire Seaton – soprano
- Susanna Spicer – mezzo-soprano
- Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks – tenor
- Christopher Foster – baritone
- Winchester Music Club
- Winchester College Glee Club and Quiristers
- Winchester Music Club Orchestra Brian Howells – leader
Concert Review by Duncan Eves
Rarely-heard masterpiece performed with such courage.
A large audience at Winchester Cathedral celebrated St Cecelia’s Day by hearing a rare performance of Beethoven’s monumental Mass in D, once described as “too great for average human beings”. The above-average interpretation was directed with reassuring firmness by Nicholas Wilks, who maintained control over frightening fugues and perilous pitching. The two-octave range and extreme tessituras of most of the quasi-intrumental chorus parts compound the composer’s dire demands on their stamina. Hence the rare concert outings for this noble, but eccentric, work.
It was to everyone’s credit that no feeling of strain communicated itself to the audience. The homophony of the opening Kyrie produced warm choral tone, supported by the orchestra and rich organ pedal notes. The massed tenors’ Et incarnatus est in the huge Credo was movingly atmospheric and the most daunting fugue, Et vitam venturi, benefited from the conductor’s cautious initial tempo. Throughout, the soprano voices were to be congratulated on so many high As and Bs, which all resonated tunefully.
It was thrilling to hear a commanding solo quartet led by the incomparable soprano, Claire Seaton. She and mezzo, Susanna Spicer, are no strangers to the cathedral and both projected radiantly into the nave. They were handsomely matched by Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks, tenor, and baritone, Christopher Foster.
The quartet made substantial contributions to the Sanctus and Benedictus sections where their musicianship was equalled by the solo violin playing of leader, Brian Howells. The orchestra’s Preludium was another atmospheric element of this courageous and successful performance.