A German Requiem

It was an unusual double bill at the TSO last night; the premiere of Alexina Louie’s Triple Violin Concerto and Brahms’ A German Requiem.  The concerto is an interesting piece.  It’s got a layered, shimmery quality that sounds quite modern without going off into territory that would frighten the punters.  It also makes excellent use of the three virtuoso soloists for whom it was written; Jonathon Crow, Yosuke Kawasaki and Andrew Wan; concertmasters respectively of the the TSO, the NAC Orchestra and l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal.  It clever plays the combinations of having soloist dialogue with soloist and soloists dialoguing individually and collectively with the orchestra.  Very enjoyable.

Jonathan Crow, Yosuke Kawasaki, Andrew Wan, Peter Oundjian (@Jag Gundu)

The longer piece was the Brahms.  There are seven movements each setting passages from the German Lutheran bible and there’s a clear Protestant sensibility to the texts chosen.  It’s more an oratorio without a story than a Requiem Mass.  One might think of Handel’s Messiah as a reference point though they could hardly be more different (bar one common text).  The Brahms kind of envelopes the text in layers of music; repeating words and phrases and creating more of a tone poem than a narrative.  It makes it quite a challenging piece for the choir because the different sections are sort of folding over and around each other.  This was all managed very well by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in very fine voice.

TMC, Russell Braun, Erin Wall, Peter Oundjian (@Jag Gundu)

There are three movements where a soloist presents the text more rhetorically.  Two are for baritone.  In this case Russell Braun, who managed to sound both dramatic and reverential.  There’s a short exposed part for soprano in the fifth movement.  Here we got Erin Wall sounding rather good in German and sweeter toned than I have sometimes heard (which augurs well for Arabella).  The orchestra sounded fine with the timpanist in particular getting a work out.  Peter Oundjian conducted.

Photo credits: Jag Gundu

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