The fourteenth season of the Subscription Concert Cycle was launched yesterday evening by the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno with captivating music. A jubilant, almost festive programme was played in the Besední dům, following a performance at the St. Wenceslas Music Festival in Ostrava the previous evening. However, there were faithful and long-time spectators in Brno without whom the entire cycle would lose its meaning.
The programme of the concert and its line-up promised a grand opening, which eventually did happen. The choir was complemented by the visiting Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc, led by its new chief conductor Jakub Klecker, and four appropriately chosen soloists.
The three compositions played were connected by the line of Viennese composers of several centuries, whose music can be considered a guarantee of quality and of the festive atmosphere that the opening show demanded.
The orchestra opened with a majestic and striking overture to the opera La Clemenza di Tito by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The ensemble thus had the opportunity to present itself under the new leadership in the best light. Accuracy and clarity of the playing under clear and distinct conducting gestures were enhanced by fresh and vibrant sound, supported by a good balance of individual instrument groups and appropriate work with expression and dynamics.
The most romantic offertorium Intende voci by Franz Schubert culminated the perhaps too short first half of the concert. In this dramatically and lyrically varied composition on the text of the Fifth Psalm, in addition to the orchestra, and especially the incoming choir, one of the soloists, tenor Jaroslav Březina, introduced himself. After the oboe solo, backed by sweetly romantic harmonies, the tenor entered with a resounding and confident voice, distinguished by clarity and sharpness, sometimes perhaps too pungent. Especially at higher pitches, the voice was not interwoven with such ease with which it could and should ideally sound. In chord sets it was seconded by a full sound of the mixed choir, which showed an appropriate balance of all the voice groups in its sound, even though sopranos sometimes tended to downplay the male part of the choir.
The imaginary summit was then the other half, in which Te Deum by Otto Nicolai was played. Although this not really well known composer (among other things, the founder of the Vienna Philharmonic) is considered to be a representative of romanticism, the composition was, in particular after Schubert's emotional harmonies, a minor surprise. In the fifteen parts of the composition, varied solo voices alternated with the choir, swift and mournful passages and the above-mentioned style elements. Romantically oriented parts were replaced without a slight detour by runs as if cut out from a classicist composition by Mozart or Haydn, in whose shadow this early composition by Nicolai was actually written. However, even the style plurality did not disrupt its appealing nature as a whole.
The above-mentioned quartet of soloists complemented the strong choir line-up of the title. In the terzetto of the second part (Tibi omnes angeli), the soprano Veronika Holbová intrigued the audience with her surprisingly bright and high-pitched voice, supported by sometimes overly artificial vibrato. Without major problems and with certainty she delivered tones in a high pitch. Aside Jaroslav Březina, the bass singer Lukáš Bařák also appeared in the terzetto; due to his youthful look and the first impression of “disorientation”, surprised the audience with his cultivated and rich voice, and in a later duet he also somewhat downplayed the much higher tenor of his colleague.
In the gloomy and mournful part of Tu ad liberandum, the contralto Václava Krejčí Housková was also given the opportunity to develop and sing out her apparent insecurity and restraint at the right moment. By working thoroughly with expression, accompanied by solo violins, she was able to skilfully transfer the melancholic charge of the aria to all listeners.
In the ninth part Judex – Te ergo qaesumus, two solo positions in the sextet were filled by choir members. Unfortunately, the soprano Jana Melišková somewhat vanished in most of the tutti parts under the mighty voice of Holbová. Separate passages, however, made her subtle but mature voice stand out. The bass Václav Jeřábek, although probably covering at the last minute for an indisposed colleague, was able to excel in his different voice colour and also the solo recitative in his performance sounded fairly well.
The choir, as the main performer of the evening, was not overshadowed despite its position on the stage and was able to push itself forward at the right moments. Although the ensemble already performed even with larger number of singers, its rich and high-quality sound in the forte was sometimes too loud for the space of the hall. In any dynamics, however, it excelled with an unmistakably thorough pronunciation that other choral formations often struggle with.
Variety and appeal to the listeners were given to the work by the composer's typical work with colours of both the orchestra and the choir has given the. Repetitive tacet of violins is not very common in works like this, and therefore the imagination of the orchestration of the remaining instrumental groups was made more visible. In particular, the fifth part of Te gloriosus featured brass instruments with unusually accurate and high-quality entries, subsequently merged with the sound of the male part of the choir. The colour combination of the two components, which in the end resulted in an almost a capella impression, all the more enhanced by freezing choral piano, gave goose bumps to more than one listener.
The choir, with which the repertoire was staged by the second choirmaster Jan Svejkovský, sounded confident and professional despite too frequent looking into the scores. Conductor Jakub Klecker was equally reliably in control of all performers. The result was compactness, precise interplay and functionality of all the components.
Also the length of the concert was friendly, deservedly rewarded by applause from regular and new spectators, who can already look forward to a varied offer of upcoming concerts in this subscription series.