Celebrating 175 Years of Performance with Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem

Celebrating 175 Years of Performance with Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem
Type of post: Choir news item
Sub-type: Latest News
Posted By: Jenny Lloyd
Status: Current
Date Posted: Wed, 16 Mar 2022
Here are extracts from David Batty’s review.  You can read the full text here https://www.exeterphilharmonic.org.uk/dbpage.php?pg=pastevents

It was two years almost to the day (14 March 2020, just before the first Covid lockdown) that I last had the pleasure of reviewing a concert in Exeter Cathedral by the Exeter Philharmonic Choir. Then it was a performance of Beethoven's mighty Missa Solemnis; this occasion, on Saturday 12 March 2022, was of the German Requiem by Brahms or, rather, Ein deutsches Requiem, as the choir sang the work in the original German. The choice of this major work within the choral repertoire served as a grand celebration of EPC's 175 uninterrupted years of performance since its foundation in 1846 – quite an achievement, and 20 years before Brahms composed the Requiem! It was pleasing, too, to see a well-filled Cathedral to mark the occasion.

For conductor Howard Ionascu this work presented a real challenge. The choir sings in all seven movements, which represents a demanding stay of stamina throughout the 60+ minutes of the work. But Howard Ionascu and his EPC forces are to be admired for keeping the energy levels so high, with no less vigour in the great fugue of the sixth movement than that which ends the third. Some frailties in choral entries and ensemble notwithstanding, the performance gave the audience a real sense of the mix of anguish and consolation that is such a feature of the work. Diction of the German text was good.

Two fine singers took on the solo roles. Jessica Cale's beautiful soprano voice, easily encompassing the high tessitura of her part, led the consolatory fifth movement in a reflective and moving manner. Singing in the third and sixth movements, baritone Timothy Nelson brought an impressive, lieder-like freshness to his performance, with an authoritative feeling for both text and music.

Accompanying the EPC were the London Mozart Players, who provided warm, high quality support: how good, for instance, to have a rich foundation to the slow tread of 'Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras' (‘For all flesh is grass’) at the start of the second movement.

Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice
Before the Requiem, the concert offered us a rare performance of Gerald Finzi's Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice, originally written (in 1946) with organ accompaniment but here heard in an orchestral guise very much in the English pastoral tradition. This is a lovely work set to words by the 17th century Richard Crashaw drawn from writings by St Thomas. I enjoyed the choir's careful attention to the work's dynamics though, as with the Brahms, the balance between voices and orchestra was occasionally challenged in forte climaxes. The performance included short solo contributions from EPC members, tenor Stuart Mole and bass Martin Stubbings.

Howard Ionascu and his performers are to be congratulated on such an enjoyable concert, which was the Exeter Philharmonic Choir's annual performance in aid of the Lord Mayor's Charity, on this occasion Inclusive Exeter.