June concert review – by George Wilson

Concert “Eine Kleine Sommermusik”

St Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington

Saturday 14th June 2014

For someone of my generation, born into the dark shadows of WW2, yet studying with a German Government scholarship in the early 70’s, it has been reassuring to witness how, academic and cultural exchanges and twinning partnerships provide the cement which binds peoples together. We were fortunate on this evening to witness a reinforcing of that wish on the part of humans to meet and relate to our fellows. Invariably on these occasions what emerges is that we share much more in common than we thought we might.

How heartwarming it was then to witness the remarkable Nymphenburger Kantatenchor from Munich being joined in the conclusion of their concert by their hosts, the Garleton Singers of Haddington. Both groups fed, together into a wonderfully sensuous and resonant performance of Mendelssohn’s 100th Psalm setting.

Given that the Garleton Singers have seen audiences grow and grow over the last few years, it was perhaps disappointing that this ancient church was not filled for such a gifted and communicative visiting choir. It is always fascinating to listen to choirs from abroad and how the different vowels and consonants affect the overall sound. The Nymphenburgers have an astonishingly resonant middle register and their director Christina Schnüttke, has tremendous ability to allow long notes to develop resonance and to shape phrases eloquently.

This choir shone in the hugely demanding “Ubi caritas” of Maurice Durufle and in some lovely settings by Schumann, including translations of our own Rabbie Burns. I did wonder whether the choir might have felt more comfortable with some of the Schumann songs transposed down…..

Travelling with the Choir was the richly sonorous St Stephen’s Church Brass ensemble, a group of eight brass players who know how to make their instruments sing – rather than blast, a quality which made magic of their Intrada by the little known Pezelius and an unidentified Chaconne by Handel. One might have wished for this excellent group to tackle something more virtuosic, perhaps Monteverdi Canzonas or one of the exciting arrangements by their native Ludwig Güttler.

If one considers the number of person-hours in the preparation of a concert like this, it can amount to at least 2,000 all told. What better way to spend the hours than in music making and sharing in common human values with artistic ideals?

As the evening concluded with another Mendelssohn favourite from Elijah “ for he shall give his angels charge over thee”, one could only hope that this collaboration might develop. Each choir has many strengths to offer their colleagues. There is a great opportunity here to explore some of the choral/brass repertoire, for instance the glorious and uplifting motets of Heinrich Schütz, in addition to the growing contemporary repertoire.


George Wilson