19th April 2019, Ulster Hall, Belfast
A Mostly Solemn Good Friday
... Brahms’ Schicksalslied or "Song of Destiny" was the central work on the programme, a rarity and unjustifiably so. Premiered in 1871, this work is of around 15 minutes in length, making it difficult to programme. A seriousness descended immediately, changing the mood completely as the luscious sound of Brahms’ rich orchestration, played with real empathy, filled Ulster Hall. Rafael Payare phrased the orchestral contributions with a sense of complete understanding, piquant harmonies were accented sympathetically. The altos made the initial choral entry, which was completely secure. As the other voices entered the quality, blend and intonation of the Belfast Philharmonic Choir was excellent. There was a sense of purpose and direction in this highly engaging performance. The only disappointment was a lack of consonants from the choir; however reaching the final bars, it didn’t prevent the hairs on the back of one’s neck standing to attention in a moment of reverence and transcendence.
Mozart’s Requiem needs no introduction. Placing the tenor and soprano to his Payare’s left and alto and bass to his right seemed an odd arrangement for the soloists but his reasoning would become apparent later ... Payare balanced his choral and orchestral forces perfectly here, the sensitive use of the organ adding drama to this already foreboding music in a dramatic way. The men of the BPC shone in the Dies irae, but it was the tenors who really came into their own here especially with strong and secure entries. Bass Edwin Crossley-Mercer made a strong impression, his voice contrasting and complementing tenor Robin Tristshcler’s lighter sound. When the four soloists combined the sound was delightful, with bass and tenor particularly clear...
...Payare balanced the choir and orchestra faultlessly in both choral pieces. The orchestra were more than mere accompanists, but it was the Belfast Philharmonic Choir's night. Chorus master Stephen Doughty should be proud. The Mozart wasn’t a period performance – clarinets instead of basset horns, strings played with sensitive vibrato, the mammoth Mulholland organ used as if it were a chamber organ supporting a choir of 130 — but this didn’t matter, the execution was such the music was allowed to sing.
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First published 21/04/2019