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Merry Widow review

posted 13 Mar 2018, 05:13 by Thomas Friberg

After a great run as Bogdanovich, the Merry Widow was a blast! Check out the review by Limelight.

A symphony of splendour

posted 22 May 2014, 05:01 by Thomas Friberg   [ updated 22 May 2014, 05:02 ]

Neville Cohn for the West Australian Newspaper May 28, 2013 

Concert: UWA Symphony Orchestra, Winthrop Hall 

Three days short of the 100th anniversary of the first performance in Paris of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Christopher van Tuinen took a near-100-strong orchestra through an often blazingly intense account of a work that triggered riots at its long-ago Paris premiere.

There weren't any disturbances at Sunday's performance. Rather, the capacity audience listened in silence bordering on reverence. It was a splendid idea to mount this centenary performance as part of UWA's own centennial celebrations.

This is not to suggest the performance was flawless. It wasn't. There were some lapses in intonation and occasional lack of definition - but these blips did little to detract from the overarching intensity and drive of the playing.

Throughout, grainy-toned strings and flaring brass underscored the barbaric intensity of much of the writing. This was a gratifyingly committed reading.

There was more splendour after interval in an account - too rare, by far - of Rachmaninov's The Bells based on Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem of the same name.

Here, the combined forces of UWA Choral Society and UWA Symphonic Chorus gave their best. And although occasionally, diction was not as clear as one might have hoped, corporate tone and fine projection compensated in large measure.

Of the three vocal soloists, I especially liked the performance of baritone Thomas Friberg who sang his words with very real understanding of their dark undercurrent - and projected his voice most effectively.

Tenor Jun Zhang, too, brought to his words great intensity of feeling in a vocal line that, for the most part, effortlessly rode the crest of the accompanying orchestral wave. There was, as well, a most pleasing solo from soprano Toni Johnson.

An all-Russian compilation opened with Mussorgsky's ever popular Night on Bald Mountain, with the players seeming to relish getting to noisy grips with the composer's dramatic notion of satanic revelry.

Striggio and Tallis: Music in 40 parts

posted 31 Mar 2012, 05:26 by Thomas Friberg

Original review found at The West of the concert described here.

William Yeoman for The West Australian, 29 February 2012

They say air travel and the internet have banished that tyrant Distance to, well, somewhere in the distance. But you know you're living in one of the most isolated cities in the world when, in an historically-informed concert of Renaissance vocal music, violins, violas, cellos, trombones, bassoons and oboes replace the viols, lutes, sackbuts, dulcians and shawms common in that period.

To be fair, performers have always used whatever instruments were to hand. And, although it's always been traditional in some regions to add instrumental accompaniments to a cappella vocal works, Alessandro Striggio's spectacular 40-part Missa Ecco si beato giorno and Thomas Tallis' better-known 40-part Motet, Spem in Alium are scored for unaccompanied voices.

And certainly, I'd rather have heard these two gigantic masterpieces of Renaissance polyphony accompanied by modern instruments than not at all.

But in this otherwise superb performance by UK-based vocal group I Fagiolini and The St George's Cathedral Consort Choir and Orchestra, all under the direction of I Fagiolini's Robert Hollingworth, I did miss the extra colour afforded by the historical instruments you can hear on I Fagiolini's CD recording — though we did have a wooden, leather-covered cornetto, played with great panache by Gawain Glenton.

OK, enough complaining. This was a concert to delight the eye as well as the ear, with the musicians separated out into small choirs and mixed consorts — the Striggio needs five eight-part choirs, the Tallis four 10-part choirs — in an arc across the stage. Two chamber organs and a harpsichord served to add further colour.

The unaccompanied works for double-choir by Willaert, Lassus, Victoria and Gibbons provided pleasing palate-cleansers between courses. All were conducted with vigour and precision by Hollingworth; all were sung with great energy and clarity.

The different movements of Striggio's 40-part Mass, which was originally requested by his employer Duke Cosimo I de' Medici as a gift for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II in Vienna, go from the intricate to the streamlined and the delicate to the grand. Whether in the breathtaking Gloria and Credo, the transparent Sanctus or the impressive Agnus Dei with its 60-part finale, singers and instrumentalists brought out the shifting hierarchies of sound with rare skill and often sublime expression.

Tallis' Spem in alium was equally satisfying — as was I Fagiolini's hilariously choreographed encore, The Ringing at Speyer.Perhaps the Perth Concert Hall lacks the requisite atmosphere for the performance of sacred choral music such as this. But I didn't hear anybody in the near-capacity audience grumbling. It was all smiles.

Beautifully conducted

posted 25 Oct 2011, 04:10 by Thomas Friberg


Oxford Times, 30 June 2011 

By David Watson 

Last Saturday the Oxford Bach Choir took on the challenging compilation by Monteverdi in 1610 of the various Vesper Psalms, Motets and concluding Magnificat “for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary” which have come to be known as the Vespers, his most renowned religious work.  The challenge arises from the variety of styles, both secular and religious, which Monteverdi employed, coupled with the virtuosity in the writing, both for the choir, soloists and instrumentalists.
 
Monteverdi himself might have approved of the venue, the Sheldonian Theatre, which dates from only half a century or so later than the Vespers themselves, and offers the possibility of similar antiphonal effects to those of St. Mark’s, Venice, of which the Choir and its conductor, Timothy Byram-Wigfield, took full advantage.

The sprung, dancing rhythms and syncopations in this music are a source of constant delight; they were given full rein by Byram-Wigfield’s clear direction and tempi sensibly not too fast for a large choir, tempi which also gave space for the rich sonority and splendour of Monteverdi’s choral writing for up to eight parts, excitingly realised by conductor and choir. The choir showed every evidence of careful rehearsal, and there were many beautiful  moments and stirring climaxes.

There was an excellent team of soloists who all sang with a real feel for their often virtuosic music, immaculate ensemble and sense of period style.  They consisted of the sopranos Elenor Bowers-Jolley and Miriam Allen, countertenor Rory McCleery, tenors Ben Alden (who deserves a special mention for his beautiful solo motet “Nigra sum” sung from memory), Thomas Elwin (who stepped in at ten days’ notice) and Joseph Ford Thompson, and basses Thomas Friberg and George Coltart.

The orchestra was the period group Charivari Agréable, who painted Monteverdi’s instrumental effects in bright colours throughout as well as providing clear backing for the choir and stylish continuo playing for the soloists.  

The choir was also joined by the young choristers or Quiristers of Winchester College (Director – Malcolm Archer), who sang their far from easy contributions with musicality and professionalism. 

As a whole the performance was most convincing in its realisation of Monteverdi’s many styles and beautifully conducted throughout.

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