14. 4. 2015, 7:28, Martin Flašar
In terms of selected works and ensembles the festival had a high quality, as it has been usual in recent years, but more than about a dramaturgical exceptionality I would speak about a sustainable standard. I consider it a good direction which in the future will make an oscillation around the quality standards possible.
The Brno Philharmonic under the direction of Aleksandar Marković and the Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno accompanied soloists. Sopranos Livia Obručník Vénosová and Catherine Jalovcová have been associated in particular with the National Theatre in Prague and the Theatre in Liberec recently. The tenor Josef Moravec is a frequent guest at opera houses in Prague, Pilsen and České Budějovice, David Szendiuch is a student of the Janáček Academy of Music with a permanent engagement at the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc.
I was attracted particularly by Livia Obručník Vénosová whom I have followed for years also as a soloist of baroque and classical operas staged by the Czech Ensemble Baroque. She performed her exposed part with an utter gentility in the mass as well as in the psalm, and presented all advantages of her voice: whether it was a range of colors or dynamic capabilities that enabled her to compete the large symphonic ensemble boldly. I appreciated the mobility and agility of her voice for example in two “Hosanna” in Sanctus and Benedictus of the Mass which are opened by the soprano in surprisingly swift introductions.
The overall impression was magnificent and monumental. Everything was performed in higher dynamic levels and it seemed to be a calculated effect of the whole apparatus. Obviously the conductor considered these moments as essential. The acoustics of the cathedral was traditionally rather defensive. It supported the choir but not the orchestra, which swam in a melodic-harmonic bath that was difficult to differentiate. At least it was my impression from the tenth row.
Durata of the concert was also questionable. Spending more than one hour and a half without intermission in cathedral pews may have a meaning of a spiritual exercise, but it also brings less enjoyment out of an excellent concert, which was prepared by musicians of Brno for citizens of Brno.
1. 4. 2015, 9:25 Boris Klepal
The Wroclaw Baroque Orchestra performed the St. John Passion at the Easter Festival of Sacred Music and as it is common in authentic early music performace, a large group of soloists participated, some of them integrated in the choir. The Church of St. Johns has supportive acoustics, even small ensembles sound there rich and clear at the same time. The decision to open this church as a meaningful concert venue was reasonable and beneficial. The conductor Andrzej Kosendiak led the performace in energetic tempi but without any undue haste. If I lacked something in the overall conception, then it was some more diversity both in tempi and in the dynamics. The tenor Nicholas Mulroy in the spectacular role of Evangelist was the most noticeable soloist. His performance, full of passion and emotion, formed an unambiguous culmination of the performance, which in some moments somewhat turned into monotony. The choir sounded good but it should be a bit more moderate in sibilants.
I unambiguously welcome inclusion of the St. John Passion in the festival program, even if the performance was not perfect – especially concerning soloists. I think that top singers would move the performance several classes up. Soloists-choir members lacked some more distinctive voices and expression and in solo arias they sounded quite interchangeably, with the exception of the mentioned Evangelist. I understand that moving festival performances in this direction would more than anything else be a question of money. St. John Passion on the eve of the Holy Wednesday drew audiences into it’s world and guided them to the culmination of the Lent period. As regard a shared music experience and a sense of solidarity, the concert actually did not have any mistake.
9. 4. 2015, 10:31 Boris Klepal
One of the most remarkable programs in the history of the Easter Festival of Sacred Music was discreetly hidden in the course of this year’s edition. Unique discoveries from the St. James Parish Library were performed by the vocal ensemble La Capilla.
An impeccably assembled program of recent discoveries from the St. James archives in connection with perfect interpretation: yes, this is what the festival should look like. If I remember well, vocal evenings of early music did not arouse much interest in previous years. Comparing to large orchestral and choral concerts, concerts of vocal chamber music were not very well attended. However, vocal polyphony is an indisputable part of the liturgical tradition and the festival dramaturgy should continue presenting this genre. Yesterday’s concert was also not sold out, but at the same time indicated a route to the absolutely convincing result – which in the future may perhaps be appealing to listeners, too.
The Church of St. James, where a reconstruction in the second half of the 19th century closed the original choir loft, was missing to complete the impression of authenticity. However, the Red Church was a decent substitute, as regard acoustics and also by the austere neo-Gothic interior of the Evangelical church. For today’s visitor who did not come for Mass but for the concert, even the smaller space was meaningful as it evoked a feeling of intimacy and closeness of artists.
After a few first bars it was obvious that vocal skills of individual members of the group are indubitable, however, especially the ensemble spirit connecting all singers together was stunning. A joint vocal technique, breathing, pure voices with characteristic colours but still serving the integrated expression. On top delicate tempi and dynamics without extreme shifts, but changing constatly. No one would guess that two singers are guests “only” and not permanent members. Core members of La Capilla vocal quartet are Rob Cuppens (alto), Tore Tom Denys (tenor), Lieve Termont (baritone) and Matthew Alec Goldstone (bass). For six voice performance in Brno the ensemble was joined by another alto António Breitenfeld Sá Dantas and the bass Ulfried Staber.