The Grads 2016 concert season opened on Sunday 8th May with absolute éclat and elan, a promising introduction to an exciting season highlighting some little known, rarely-performed works.
We believe that our performance of Franz von Suppé’s Requiem was an Australian first—and it proved surprising in many hoped for, but unexpected, ways.
A common theme in the feedback we received was the unexpectedness of it. With von Suppé’s reputation built on light operettas and similar music, the profundity and grace of his Requiem – as well as the complexities of both the instrumental and vocal writing – caught many by surprise.
Our soloists included established and emerging talent.
We were pleased to welcome soprano Sarah Toth who has performed numerous operatic roles across the spectrum both here and overseas. Amongst other awards, Sarah was also a semi-finalist in the 2015 Joan Carden Award competition. It was a particular pleasure to welcome her to the stage.
Anna Dowsley is well known to audiences of the Grads, having appeared as guest soloist on a number of occasions, including our 2013 performance of Verdi’s Requiem, the memorable Mass in C (Missa Dei Patris) by Jan Zelenka, also performed in 2013, and our December 2015 performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt. Recipient of a number of prestigious awards, Anna is forging a very successful career as principal artist with Opera Australia. Her performance lived up to expectations, with her rendition of the ‘Lacrimosa’ of particular note.
Distinguished tenor, David Hamilton last performed with the Grads in our performance of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater just one year ago in May 2015. It was a great pleasure to have him sing with us again.
Bass Adrian Tamburini, currently principal artist with Opera Australia, who performed so memorably in the August 2014 premiere of Christopher Bowen’s An Australian War Requiem, and subsequently in our 2015 performance of Dvořák’s wonderful Stabat Mater, excelled. His performance of the ‘Hostias’ brought tears to many eyes, and it will be long remembered for its passion and depth.
When singing as an ensemble the soloists blended beautifully, no one voice overpowering the other, allowing each full rein to shine.
A warm welcome to our new orchestra leader, Kirsten Williams, Associate Concertmaster with the SSO, who brought her extensive experience and a marked enthusiasm for the performance of a little-known and rarely performed work to lead a very polished and confident orchestral ensemble.
The orchestra performed with a real edge, and evident pleasure at playing something unexpectedly powerful. It comprised very distinguished musicians, including violinist Rebecca Gill, also an SSO member, as well as cellist Hyungsuk Bae, the SSO’s 2016 Fellow. Many other musicians in the orchestra are regular members of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.
Particular tribute should be paid to the prominent brass sections, including trombonists Michael Wyborn, Mitchell Nissen and Pius Choi, who rose to take well-deserved applause at the conclusion of the concert.
But the whole orchestra is to be commended, particularly when you take into account that this was a completely new work to all of them.
A new work to all of us, choir included! The choice of a virtual unknown work was a brave and adventurous step for all involved. It gave the Choir the opportunity to show its mettle and it more than met the challenge, and all within a relatively limited rehearsal period. The precision of the choir’s vocals, particularly on the rapid quaver and semi-quaver passages, the nuanced contrast of subjects in the fugues, and the very effective dynamic control (particularly the diminuendos) give ample evidence of the Graduate choir’s expanding capacities. Of particular note were the dense rich textures of the a capella sections.
There was evident enjoyment in the performance, even from the conductor who bore the responsibility for making it all dance together.
This was an enjoyment shared by performers and audience alike. We’ve received a large number of congratulatory messages, commenting on how remarkable and powerful the work is, and how enjoyable it was to sing it/share in it/hear it. It’s easy to agree with the conductor’s assessment that this work should be a major addition to the repertoire of great choral works.
One particular message shows that the music had considerable impact. Two guests of our bass, Adrian, attended. ‘They had never been to a classical concert in their lives. So, on my recommendation, they came to see the concert. I found them at the conclusion of the performance in the quadrangle, both of them had tears streaming down their faces saying that they had never imagined that music like that could have moved them so much. I didn’t want to embarrass them by asking where their tears had come from but I was honoured and proud that our collective performance had touched their hearts and made such a strong impact on them. Thus is the power of music.’
A great start to our 2016 concert season, setting a high benchmark for the rest of the year.