June 26, 2001
Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie

On Midsummer's Night

The Berlin Radio Choir's new conductor, Simon Halsey, makes his debut leading English and French partsongs with a seasonal theme

Program

Sir Edward Elgar
The Fountain, My love dwelt in a northern land

Gabriel Fauré
Madrigal, Op. 35

Gustav Holst
Dirge and Hymeneal, The Evening Watch

Gabriel Fauré
Pavane, Op. 50

Frederick Delius
To be sung of a summer night

Sir Edward Elgar
There is sweet music, The Shower

Gabriel Fauré
Les djinns, Op. 12

Gustav Holst
Five Partsongs, Op. 12

Gabriel Fauré
Cantique de Jean Racine

Frederick Delius
Midsummer Song

Sir Edward Elgar
Owls, O Wild West Wind

Artists

Rundfunkchor Berlin
Simon Halsey - Conductor
Phillip Moll - Piano

Leserbrief/readers comment Druckversion/printversion

On Midsummer's Night

The Berlin Radio Choir's new conductor, Simon Halsey, makes his debut leading English and French partsongs with a seasonal theme

by Nancy Chapple

A choral program of unusual and rarely played works by Elgar, Fauré, Delius and Holst drew a small, enthusiastic audience to the chamber music hall of Berlin's Philharmonie on Tuesday, June 26. This was the Rundfunkchor Berlin's first performance with their new and much-heralded conductor, Simon Halsey, who, as director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus since 1982, has worked closely with Sir Simon Rattle.

A cappella works alternated with partsongs accompanied by pianist Phillip Moll, as did songs sung in English and French. The four composers' music was interlaced in a weave of fleeting impressions appropriate to the celebratory - and melancholy - mood of Midsummer's Night. Edward Elgar's a cappella works on subjects drawn from nature played a prominent role, beginning and ending the program; they ranged from the beautiful harmonic coloring of The Fountain to a lovely bass line in The Shower to the concluding work, O Wild West Wind. Gabriel Fauré's tendency to write beautiful melodies with an even rhythmic accompaniment was apparent in Cantique de Jean Racine, and the sparkling dialogue between the vocal lines and the piano in Les Djinns was fascinating.

Using intense gestures, Halsey moved closer to the chorus as the evening progressed. Conductor and choir seemed to have worked hard on their diction, particularly in the English works, and they appeared to greatly enjoy the shared musical experience, especially during Holst's exquisite Five Partsongs, Op. 12, with texts by a range of poets including Robert Herrick and Christina Rossetti. The work was conceived as a collection but completed only by Holst's daughter after his death; Halsey conducted the work's world premiere in 1986. An earlier highlight was also provided by Holst with the Dirge and Hymeneal, a fascinating alternation of minor and major harmonies on a poem about woe and joy by Thomas Lovell Beddoes. The works by Frederick Delius, with the exception of the Midsummer Song, which the Rundfunkchor sang a second time as an encore, left a relatively cold and distant impression, in contrast to the other more rousing works.

(This review originally appeared at www.andante.com)



©www.klassik-in-berlin.de