Sydney Chamber Choir opens its 2017 concert series with a voyage through the deeply moving music of German Romanticism selected by young guest conductor, Sam Allchurch, whom conductor, music educator and Music Director of the Sydney Chamber Choir, Richard Gill chose, to conduct and program its first concert for 2017.
The rich beauty of German choral music is celebrated in this special program, from the eloquence of Mendelssohn, the delicacy of Schubert and resonant harmonies of Brahms and Bruckner, to Schoenberg’s passionate and powerful plea for peace on earth.
Inspired by nature, the unexplored paths of dreams and a deep awe of the divine, the German Romantics opened up choral music to unlimited horizons of both grandeur and intimacy.
“I’ve been touched by this music’s beauty since playing the organ at Sydney Grammar School and later by my association with Geoffrey Webber at Cambridge,” said Sam Allchurch, who graduated in music from Melbourne and Cambridge universities. “We all know the masters of German music but their heart-felt choral music deserves to be better heard; and the rich sound and detailing of these 34 fantastic voices of the Sydney Chamber Choir do it perfect justice.”
An alumnus of the Sydney Children’s Choir, Sam Allchurch also conducts its Gondwana Young Men’s Choir working with teenage singers whose voices have or are changing, and recently the famed Trinity College Choir in Melbourne.
Pianist Jem Harding, a regular collaborator with Allchurch and Gondwana, is performing in three key works of German Romantics, including a Mendelssohn piano solo.
The Sydney Chamber Choir, now in its 42nd year, will also sing Bruckner’s Christus factus est, other a capella works by Herzogenberg and Rheinberger, and conclude German Romantics with Schoenberg, as a harbinger of modernism to come.
“This is the chance to dive into such emotionally intense music when composers threw off old conventions of balance and restraint to seek new personal ways to communicate feeling. My whole career has been devoted to researching and studying different choral musicians to produce such a concert as this,” says Sam.
He continues “This program was inspired by my work with Geoffrey Webber when I was a graduate student at Cambridge University. Geoffrey had recently recorded a disc of German romantic music with the Choirs of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and Kings College London and I fell in love with the rich sound of 40 voices of highly-skilled singers performing this emotionally intense music.
When I was to propose a program for Sydney Chamber Choir, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to explore the German romantics – a genre not particularly often performed in choral concerts in Australia.
The program traces the development of the unaccompanied choral motet in the nineteenth century, beginning with Mendelssohn, then moving on to Brahms and finishing with Schoenberg, with several diversions along the way. In these choral works, both Mendelssohn and Brahms look back to older styles of music – to Bach and the renaissance masters respectively. And Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden, the final work in the program, is at once progressive and retrospective: composed in 1913, the work teeters on the edge of romantic musical expression and pushes the edge of tonality in a fascinating way. Both subject matter (the search for world peace) and its form, it is a bit like a miniature version of a symphony of Gustav Mahler.
I’m delighted to be joined in the journey by my friend and colleague Jem Harding who will accompany the choir and play Mendelssohn’s Rondo capriccioso Op.40.”
The programme: MENDELSSOHN Richte mich, Gott Op.78 / Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen? Opus 78/ SCHUBERT Gott ist mein Hirt * / MENDELSSOHN Rondo capriccioso Op.14 (Jem Harding, piano) / HERZOGENBERG Meine seele erhebt den Herrn Op.81 / BRAHMS Warum ist das Licht gegeben Mühseligen? Op.74/ Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen from Ein deutsches Requiem *
BRUCKNER Christus factus est / RHEINBERGER Ich liebe, weil erhöret der Herr Op.40 / BRAHMS Schaffe in mir Gott, ein rein Herz Op.29 / HERZOGENBERG Heilig ist Gott Op.81 / BRAHMS Geistliches Lied Op.30 / SCHÖNBERG Friede auf Erden Op.13
* with Jem Harding, piano
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