Concert Review: Mozart Mass in C Minor, 11 April 2015

Mozart Mass in C Minor

One of  the most outstanding results of the twinning between St Albans and the German city of Worms is the enduring link between two choirs.

For more than 45 years the St Albans Chamber Choir has linked up with the Wormser Kantorei either here or in Germany for biennial concerts and on Saturday it was the turn of St Albans to hear the result of this cooperation. As always the result was a spectacular evening, not only of music but of renewing old friendships.

For this year’s concert the two choirs and their conductors, John Gibbons and Stefan Merkelbach, were joined by the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra with soloists, sopranos Kim Sheehan and Cecilia Bailey, tenor Oliver Martin-Smith and bass Jonathan Saunders.

Opening with Josef Haydn’s Te Deum with Stefen Merkelbach conducting, the joint choirs immediately proved just how well they fit together, as well as their remarkable ability to function together in two different languages. It was hard to tell that the two groups of singers did not work together more regularly than once every two years as they produced extremely  satisfying  music. Stefan Merkelbach also took to the podium for one of the highlights of the evening, a performance of Mozart’s glorious Exultate, Jubilate with fabulous young  soprano  Kim Sheehan.Her performance of the amazing work was one of the finest I have ever heard. Her crystal clear yet powerful voice with her  great virtuoso skills more than did justice to the huge space of St Albans Cathedral

Between the two works the orchestra performed William Alwyn’s moving Tragic Interlude written in 1939 which ponders the futility of war. Conducted by John Gibbons, the work was a complete contrast to the rest of the evening but somehow its sombre tones married well with the joy of the rest of  the evening.

The main work of the concert was Mozart’s spectacular yet unfinished Mass in C minor which saw the return to the stage of Kim Sheehan and fellow soprano Cecilia Bailey together with Oliver Martin-Smith and Jonathan Saunders with John Gibbons conducting.

There are spectacular choral sections in the work which the joint choir handled extremely well. But above all the mass is a showcase for the principal soprano, the second soprano and the orchestra. Once more Kim Sheehan was spectacular in the role which was probably written for Mozart’s wife Constanze Weber but Cecilia Bailey more than held her own in the movements they sang together. The section where they were joined by the tenor, Oliver Martin-Smith, was excellent. One almost has to feel sorry for the Jonathan Saunders the bass for his only role in the entire work was a brief  solo in the final Benedictus.

Overall this was an evening which showed the sort of musical performance St Albans does  best – spectacular and excellent. In the splendid surroundings of the cathedral, it must create lasting memories for those taking

JOHN MANNING, Herts Advertiser, April 2015