On Sunday evening (March 19) in St Saviour’s Church, the ESO Chorus, the Eastbournian Society Chorus and the orchestra itself gave a memorable performance of Brahms’ Requiem.
Most requiems use the Latin Mass but this so-called ‘German’ Requiem utilised Luther’s translation of the Bible. Graham Jones and his forces used an English translation which the choir sang with clarity, power when necessary, and lyricism when the music demanded. The work is in seven parts, and opens with a movement in which the violins are silent.
Two soloists are involved. Nicholas Morris, baritone, had taken over at short notice, and displayed a voice used with power and feeling, especially in the third movement’s ‘Lord, make me to know’. Máire Flavin, soprano, confidently faced the impossible challenge created by Brahms: to be heard above a large orchestra and a large choir. Logically the words of her aria ‘Ye now are sorrowful’ suggest intimacy, which is possible in a recording, but not in a live performance. She, perhaps wisely, opted to float a ringing declamation: beautiful, even though it meant that the consonants were occasionally lost in the echo.
Throughout, the orchestra showed what a fine full symphony orchestra Eastbourne is lucky to have. The strings’ lustre, the woodwind’s plangent tone, and the penetration of the brass were all evident in Brahms’ choral masterpiece, written relatively early in his composing life. The 70-strong choir, too, sang with a confidence born of fine rehearsal and long experience. And speaking of rehearsal, Gavin Stevens deserves to be commended, because good rehearsal pianists are rare birds indeed. Compliments are also due to John Thornley, the concert manager and compiler of the excellent and informative printed programme.
Graham Jones, conductor, Lisa Wigmore, leader, and the two soloists well deserved the prolonged applause which followed a memorable performance.
We now look forward to the ESO’s summer concert on Sunday 18 June when the winner of their annual young soloist competition, 15-year-old Coco Tomita, will play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. All details on www.eso.org.uk. By Robin Gregory.