A choir of great homogeneity

 NWZ Region Wesermarsch Culture 26.09.2018

The Kammerchor Oldenburg inspires with its desire and ability to sing out subtle details. At the end the audience thanks with standing ovations.

by Reinhard Rakow

BERNE Everything is sound, flawless and sublime. The basses prepare the ground earthy, tenor and alto strive upwards, gain height and form, artfully fan themselves out until the soprano finally rises above everything. With compelling radiance he occupies the zenith of the sound firmament, conjures surfaces that glow, dots that shine, arches that sparkle and glisten: the Oldenburg Chamber Choir under Johannes von Hoff gives a guest performance in St. Aegidius, and the enthusiasm knows no bounds.

The performance was the result of cooperation between fellow cantors Natalia Gvozdkova (Berne) and von Hoff (Oldenburg). The concert was repeated the following day in Oldenburg. Natalia Gvozdkova took part in both performances as organist.

The three-part 90-minute programme, entitled “Praise and Lament”, framed the middle block with short organ pieces, a lamento by Jehan Alain (1911-1940) and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Fugue in F minor, two works attributable to the lamenting ductus, which Gvozdkova performed in touching austerity, but each in its own distinctive tone.

Strict and delicate simplicity also characterized the choral works of the evening. In his introduction, von Hoff emphasized that the Christian three-movement had inspired lament, consolation and praise for composers of all epochs to create great choral works. Nevertheless, the programme was able to dispense well with the opulent melismatics of the pompous late Baroque. Instead, it concentrated entirely on pieces that demanded the singing out of clear lines, the artistic colouring and layering of even simple phrases, the architectural creation of sound spaces through pure vocal culture – chorically even the greater challenge.

In addition to psalm settings by Schütz und Schein from the beginning of the Baroque and the neo-romanticists Frank Martin (1890-1974) and Georg Schumann (1866-1952), Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s “German Liturgy” from 1846 and Francis Poulenc’s “Mass in G” from 1947, which was actually regarded as harsh, marked the highlights of colourful and lively music; the 30 singers staged Poulenc’s Gloria so intensively and so splendidly that they had to repeat it as an encore.

Breathing a single breath, the Oldenburg Chamber Choir acts in great homogeneity, intonation-safe even with difficult harmonies and delicate rhythms, always excellently articulating. The desire and ability to sing out subtle details is always inspiring; especially where quiet, seemingly simple lines cautiously touch one another, it becomes audible how highly developed the sense of sound of the choir is: organic tonal spaces grow there, chords follow one another in natural flow, crescendi blossom, diminuendi extinguish, nothing is what might be different.

So this evening two miracles could be inscribed into the Annals of St. Aegidius: Firstly, that even in the eleventh row of the high room the final consonant, breathed in the polyphonic pianissimo, was clearly heard as “t”.

Secondly, after an hour and a half of liturgical singing, visitors jumped up who couldn’t help but get rid of their exuberant enthusiasm with loud Bravo calls.