Music Review

From Virginia's Choralis, an evening of quiet and gentle requiems

The Virginia chorus began the evening with a famous requiem by Gabriel Fauré and finished with the premier of one by the British composer Bob Chilcott.
The Virginia chorus began the evening with a famous requiem by Gabriel Fauré and finished with the premier of one by the British composer Bob Chilcott. (Choralis Foundation)
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Listening to two requiem masses back to back may not be everyone's idea of a good time. But the Virginia-based chorus Choralis, cleverly paired Fauré's famously gentle Requiem with an equally soft-spoken new Requiem by British composer Bob Chilcott at its season-opening concert Saturday at the Falls Church Presbyterian Church.

The Fauré received a lovely performance from Choralis's 28-member chamber chorus, Echos. Conductor Gretchen Kuhrmann drew a clear and beautifully blended sound from the group, which was maintained when the music pulled down to only a handful of voices. String playing in the pick-up chamber orchestra was a little sketchy, but when the full ensemble joined the chorus, in those few moments when emotion causes Fauré to raise his compositional voice above a whisper, the sound was full-bodied and thrilling.

Chilcott's Requiem -- which was having its D.C.-area premiere, and the world premiere of the composer's version of the score for organ, timpani and wind quartet -- is modeled closely on the Fauré. This is clearly intended to be music of joy and consolation, which Chilcott dresses in the instantly accessible consonance of the Anglican choral tradition, and in Victorian-style melodies that could almost convince you the 20th century never happened.

Chilcott has an evocative way with orchestration, from the wistful wind writing at the opening to the rhythmically restless organ figures that underscore subsequent movements. Echos -- and two promising young soloists, soprano Katelyn Aungst and tenor Dennys Moura -- gave the work a rapt performance under conductor Neil Weston's baton.

-- Joe Banno


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