The Alvin Nemetz Memorial Concert
Dates: 4 August
2003 at 8.00pm
Reviewer: June Heywood
The star of last Monday's Festival Vancouver Gala was Maestro Helmuth Rilling. The slight, snowy-haired German conductor bent his knees and stretched using the space all around him as he led the CBC Radio Orchestra, a combined chorus, and a quartet of soloists.
This year's featured composer is Franz Schubert. In his 31 years he wrote more than 950 works. His Symphony No. 8 in B Minor ("Unfinished Symphony") is one of his better known orchestral pieces.
Under the Maestro's baton, the CBC Radio Orchestra played Schubert's music with appropriate gentleness, sweetness, drama, and menace. It's understandable that the Unfinished Symphony has been used to full effect in movies such as Disney's "Fantasia" and others.
Conductor and orchestra worked in perfect accord. The performance was most satisfying from the opening pianissimo to the final note.
The second half of the program was less so. For Schubert's Mass No. 5 in A Flat major the orchestra was joined by the Festival Vancouver Chorus assembled specifically for the Gala performance.
Jon Washburn, conductor of the Vancouver Chamber Choir, had prepared the chorus. It included 72 people from 11 of Vancouver's most prestigious choirs that included Chor Leoni, Coastal Sound Chamber Choir, Elektra Women's Choir, Gallery Singers, Laudate Singers, musica intima, Phoenix Chamber Choir, Trinity Masterworks Choir, Vancouver Bach Choir, Vancouver Cantata Singers, and Vancouver Chamber Choir.
The chorus was highly professional, opening their scores in unison and holding them at uniform height. In the Kyrie the amazing beauty of the orchestra and chorus as their tones rose and fell in prayerful harmony was almost celestial. However, maybe lacking time to practice, the energy of the chorus seemed low.
The promising young
soloists - Jennifer Farrell, soprano; Sarah Fryer, mezzo-soprano; Michael
Colvin, tenor; and Alain Coulombe, bass - blended their voices with the
orchestra and chorus. Watch out especially for Mr Colvin who may well
have a future in lighter musical fare. He displayed a great sense of comedy
when his ample body spoke volumes on not receiving a bouquet.
© 2003, June Heywood