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Within the complex there are two venues for music -- the 'Rococo'-style Cuvalliés Theatre (or Old Residenz Theatre), and the splendid Herkulessaal. The Theatre was created in 1755 by Francois Cuvalliés. In the war even the tiers of boxes were removed and saved. It is still used for productions of the Bavarian State Opera. The Herkulessaal is a grand and spacious rectangular hall, adorned on each side by huge blue and white tapestries depicting the Labours of Hercules.

Riccardo Muti
Riccardo Muti

This was the venue for the choral and orchestral concert of the Bavarian Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Muti. The first part of the programme consisted of Schubert's early mass in G (D167). This work, composed by Schubert at the age of eighteen, does not aspire to heights or depths of emotion, but Muti conveyed its gentle sincerity. He controlled the choir beautifully, especially in the quiet sections, and the few climaxes were more effective for that.

The fine singing of the three soloists -- especially the bass, Carlo Colombara -- contributed to the effect of classical nobility.

While Muti's Schubert was moving, his performance of Bruckner's great Mass No 3 in F minor was overwhelming. He produced from the superb Bavarian Radio Choir and Orchestra a sound that gloriously filled the Great Hall, worthy of the hero who adorns its walls. The monumental Kyrie and searing climaxes of the Gloria and Et Resurrexit were grand and thrilling beyond description. The soloists were inspired to similar heights -- especially the soprano of Ruth Ziesak and, once again, the bass of Carlo Colombara. The Benedictus, with its warm introduction in the cellos, and the concluding Dona Nobis Pacem, were deeply moving in their sincerity.

And it is, of course, through sincerity that this Mass is great. The sound, however spectacular, would still be but sound if it was produced for its own sake or merely to display its own magnificence. Bruckner's Mass is an overwhelming experience because it is the expression of the composer's unbreakable faith in God; his music is great and glorious because of his sincere belief in the greatness of God. The effect for the listener is more direct precisely because, as in the case of Joseph Haydn, his faith is direct and uncomplicated. Bruckner was a modest man who wrote for the glory of God, not of himself -- in his own words, 'Omnia ad majorem Dei gloriam.'

If a great conductor, choir and orchestra come together to perform such a work in this same spirit, the result is as we were privileged to hear that evening in the Herkulessaal.

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Copyright © 8 November 2002 Ted and Emi Norrish, Coventry, UK


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