Past Concerts

Requiem, Mozart.

Sunday 11 May 2014, 11 May 2014

A celebration of the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the concert took place on 11th May 2014 as part of the Mayfield Festival of Music and the Arts.

The Choir was joined by the Primavera Chamber Ensemble and soloists Miranda Johnson, Anna Boucher, Bene’t Coldstream and Martin Johnson, in a programme that included:

  • Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,
  • Misericordias Domini K222
  • Requiem K626

When Mozart died prematurely (at the age of thirty-five) on 5 December 1791, he left behind him an unfinished setting of the Requiem Mass. After Mozart’s death, the composer’s wife Constanze wanted to have the work completed (swiftly and secretly) so that she could pass the whole piece off as the work of her husband. Constanze approached Franz Süssmayr who was in his mid twenties and had studied composition with Mozart in the last few months of the great composer’s life. Indeed Süssmayr and Mozart became so close during 1791 that Süssmayr became as much family friend as composition pupil.

Quite how much of the Requiem is Süssmayr’s work is a matter of speculation. If you believe Mozart’s wife, then Süssmayr had access to ‘scraps of paper’ that contained many of Mozart’s musical sketches for the uncompleted parts of the Requiem. Moreover, Constanze’s sister insisted that Mozart had spoken in detail to Süssmayr about how the Requiem should be completed the very night before Mozart’s death. Süssmayr, on the other hand, claimed almost a decade later that he had been entirely responsible for the composition of the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. The fact that we’ll never know makes this masterpiece an enigma as well as Mozart’s glorious swan song.

A capacity audience were in attendance at the final concert of the 2014 Festival of Music and the Arts at St Dunstan’s church on Sunday to hear a programme entirely devoted to Mozart, given by Mayfield Festival Choir and the London Primavera chamber orchestra.

The evening opened with Misericordias Domini, a liturgical piece written for the celebration of mass, which proved an ideal introduction – showing the choir’s recently augmented strength and vigour – and it was a good “warm-up” for the greater second half of the evening.

In between, the London Primavera, under the excellent leadership and guidance of Paul Manley demonstrated once again why they are considered one of the country’s leading chamber orchestras. “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” was given just the necessary style and sweetness required for such a piece, with the strings providing effortless fluency and agility.

After the interval, all forces, including four soloists, came together for the major work of the evening – Requiem in D minor. The speed and vibrancy of Dies irae demonstrated that the choir can now fill all the avenues required for such a work, making us truly believe that this was a “Day of anger”! It was thrillingly and solidly sung. The final passage of work involved the work involved the total ensemble – choir, orchestra and soloists, Miranda Johnson (soprano), Anna Boucher (mezzo-soprano) Bene’t Coldstream (tenor) and Martin Johnson (baritone) who provided the required vocal stature. As always Andrew Benians presided reliably throughout the evening at the organ.

This was the debut Festival for conductor and recently appointed Artistic Director Jeremy Summerly and it has proved to be an auspicious appointment. Under his leadership the choir has blossomed in quality and confidence, and the many diverse and varied musical offerings in the Festival programme were well thought out and appealed to a variety of artistic tastes.

On the evidence of this year we can look forward with anticipation to what we might expect in the 2016 Festival.

James Anderson

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