REVIEW: Fauré Requiem (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

Where? Concert Hall, QPAC
When? April 7, 2018
Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Fauré Requiem on Saturday night, one of the company’s two choral concerts for 2018, was spine-tingling beautiful, and included Gabriel Fauré’s famous piece as well as three works by Stravinsky, Britten, and Whitacre. The orchestra was joined onstage by The Australian Voices (directed by Gordon Hamilton), Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, and Soprano Morgan England-Jones.
The first work of the night, with the score having been only recently rediscovered in 2015, was Stravinsky’s Funeral Song. Composed as a tribute to his mentor, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the work opens in a similar way to Stravinsky’s later composition, The Firebird, and evokes eerie images of misty graveyards and mourning processions, while the solo instruments present their melodies like wreaths at a tomb.
Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from his opera Peter Grimes provided a change of tone, with each interlude capturing a different state of the sea. Opening with the soft, glittering movement Dawn, where violins and flutes create the image of sun piercing the clouds, the work moves on to Sunday Morning, where horns simulate the ringing of church bells over the top of the other instruments’ melody. Moonlight is slower and gentler, with soft harp and flute, increasing in intensity, and the work culminates in Storm, the fourth interlude rising and falling in the unpredictable way of nature. This work created a very clear image for me of the ocean, and I enjoyed the different moods that each interlude created. Truly a transportive experience.
Soprano Morgan England-Jones and grand organist Philip Gearing
Equally powerful in its imagery, Eric Whitacre’s Cloudburst was the third work of the night and delighted the audience with its texture and the intensity of layered voices. Inspired by the composer’s experience of a cloudburst in the desert and Mexican poet Octavio Paz’s text El cántara roto (The Broken Water Jar), the beautiful voices of the choristers were complemented by the ringing of handbells, the clicking of fingers and clapping of hands to simulate rain, interjections of spoken word, and the use of huge tin sheets to create thunder. A visually beautiful performance too, seeing the choristers move in unison before they began with the body percussion.
The Australian Voices
The titular work of the evening, Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, was truly a pleasure to experience. The full orchestral version performed by Queensland Symphony Orchestra was first performed at Fauré’s own funeral in 1924. The stately sound of the grand organ, played by Philip Gearing, the otherworldly chorus of voices, and the brilliant performances by soprano Morgan England-Jones and baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes combined for a rapturous half hour of music.
Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes


Under the baton of Swedish choral conductor Stefan Parkman, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra did a stellar job as usual, working seamlessly with The Australian Voices to create a wonderful evening of music celebrating life, death, and nature.
Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s next performances are this coming week featuring 2018 Artist-in-Residence Sergio Tempio on piano. Dynamic Duois on Friday morning, April 13, and An Emotional Rollercoaster is on Saturday evening, April 14. Both performances will include Ginastera’s Concerto No. 1 and Brahm’s fourth symphony, and An Emotional Rollercoaster will also feature Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Find out more, or book tickets, by visiting QSO’s website.

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