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Good-hearted Buoyancy

Dvorák and Brahms from Derby,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Writing about a performance of Dvorák's Mass in D some weeks ago I suggested that his distinctive personality was somewhat lacking. No such problem with the Te Deum written for his first concert appearance in the USA -- this has the composer's name stamped all over it. Derby Choral Union clearly enjoyed themselves with this attractive work, in a performance full of good-hearted buoyancy (Derby Catherdral, Derby, UK, 26 April 2008).

It was preceded by Brahms' Academic Festival Overture, in Sir Malcolm Sargent's version, with the chorus joining in the final 'Gaudeamus Igitur'. It may not be what Brahms wrote but it's a harmless bit of fun that came off very effectively here.

All this was the curtain-raiser to a fine account of Brahms' German Requiem. In the second movement the performers found a stark weariness in the steady tread, the fugue was nicely vigorous, and climaxes were skilfully graded. The climactic triple-time section of the sixth movement needed just a little bit more swing to the rhythm, but in general this was a strong, committed performance.

It had the added advantage (as did the Dvorák) of two outstanding young soloists. South Africa-born soprano Erica Eloff's rich but clear tone was aptly consoling in the fifth movement, without being cloying. Swedish baritone Håkan Vramsmo gave his solos weight and authority without ponderousness, along with a wonderfully burnished sound.

Copyright © 5 May 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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