Hertford Choral Society performed Mozart Requiem and McDowall Magnificat on 11th November 2017, with London Mozart Players and Soloists: Katy Hill (soprano), Clare McCaldin (mezzo), Jeremy Budd (tenor), Alex Ashworth (bass). Musical Director and Conductor was Derek Harrison.
McDowall’s piece, dating from 2003, was new to me, and, I suspect, to most of the audience. It is a sublimely beautiful work featuring extended solos and duets for soprano and mezzo. The sections Ecce enim for soprano solo, and Quia fecit were especially striking, as was Et misercordia for solo mezzo. The orchestral writing was unusual and effective. Overall, an attractive and interesting piece I would like to hear again.
With Mozart’s requiem we are in more familiar territory. This is a stunning work, and such a unified whole that it is hard to believe that two composers were involved. (Mozart left the work unfinished at his death, and his pupil Sussmayr completed it from his sketches) It is not “blood and thunder”, like Berlioz and Verdi, but deals with themes such as Dies Irae (Day of wrath) and Tuba mirum (The last trumpet) in a relatively subdued way. The Confutatis, however, is both fiery and dramatic. The work eventually comes to a calm conclusion, appropriate to the theme of eternal rest.
The four soloists, working as a quartet, made a magnificent contribution, and the soprano solos were superb, soaring above the chorus like an angel on the wing. The chorus gave an impeccable performance as usual, delivering the text with clarity and excellent intonation. The London Mozart Players, as one would expect, proved ideal interpreters of all this music, and Maestro Harrison conducted with his usual intelligence and authority.
Great performances of great music. It is a tragedy, of course, that Mozart never heard a note of this work except in his “inner ear” as he composed it. If he and Sussmayr were listening from above they would surely not have been disappointed.