Inspirare as singular performers of Brahms choral pieces and part songs

Mark L. Stamper, artistic director

An Evening of Brahms: Resolution to Love

Vocal soloists: Alex Gandionco (soprano), Eleanor McGeechie (alto), Richard Taylor (tenor) and Joe Haddow (bass)
Rachel Thomson and Emma Sayers (piano) and Donald Armstrong (violin)

Central Baptist Church, 46 Boulcott Street

Saturday, 15 June 2019, 7:30 pm

This was a concert of music by one composer only, Brahms, and does not stray from traditional classical repertoire. Yet, apart from the piano solo, Rhapsody in G minor, Op 79, No 2, and the first movement of the Violin Sonata No 3 in D minor, Op. 108, the vocal works in the programme are seldom heard.

The concert opened with Vier Quartette, Op.92, sung by Alex Gandionco, soprano, Eleanor McGeechie, alto, Richard Taylor, tenor and Joe Haddow, bass. This is comparatively late Brahms, rich in texture. The four songs are settings of poems by four different poets, Daumier, Allmers, Hebbel, and Goethe. The first, ‘O schöne Nacht’ celebrates a lovely night, sweet comradeship and the young man who steals quietly to his sweetheart. The second, ‘Spätherbst’, is melancholy, the grey mist drops down silently, the flowers will bloom no more. The third, ‘Abendlied’, is about joy and anguish, life is like a lullaby. The final song, ‘Warum?’ asks the question: why do songs resound heavenwards and invoke warm blissful days. The four voices harmonized to beautiful effect.

Zigeunerlieder was sung by a group of eight, two sopranos, two altos, two tenors and two basses. These songs are not authentic gypsy songs, but they present an exotic quality through the use of Hungarian intervals, irregular rhythms and syncopation. They are a reflection of Brahms’s interest in what was considered at the time, exotic gypsy music, as in his better known Hungarian Dances. These songs are set to the text by the Hungarian folk poet Hugo Conrat. The performance by the small group of singers required great discipline, highlighted by the solo singing of tenor Theo Moolenaar. The ten songs are about love, longing, homesickness, disappointment, exile.

Liebeslieder Waltzer is a collection of eighteen short love songs in popular Ländler style, influenced by Schubert, whose Ländler he edited, but these also contain reference to Johann Strauss, who was at the height of his popularity. These were songs by the rest of the choir of sixteen voices, notably accompanied by two pianists, Emma Sayers and Rachel Thomson on one keyboard.

Inspirare is a vocal group like no other in Wellington. They are all individually, highly trained singers; they sing with precision, yet with appropriate lyricism and the concert reflected a sheer love of singing. The two instrumental interludes added to the enjoyment of the evening. Mark Stamper, the musical director of the group played the Brahms’s G minor Rhapsody with sensitivity, Donald Armstrong, associate concert master of the NZSO and Rachel Thomson of the New Zealand School of Music performed the first movement of Brahms’s third violin sonata with deep understanding and a beautiful tone. This greatly enhanced the concert of vocal music.

At the end of the concert, in response to the warm applause, the choir walked off the stage and came forward to stand alongside the audience and sang the beautiful Irish Blessing, arranged by Graeme Langare. This was a lovely conclusion to a memorable concert.

Inspirare are noted for their innovative, interesting programming. Their concerts are not to be missed.

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