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Choir of Pamplona: Exhibition Review

ENGLISH

It was a long concert, dense [substantive], not exactly of shallow programming, but a deep and committed one, with vocal strength, variations, with some stretches of disputable execution, but compelling, resounding, throughout with maximum alertness and tension, and with a Bruckner anthology (Orfeon), and a Gorriti reference (Orfeon y Escolania). And with a reputable director, the North American conductor Douglas Sheldon, the Orfeon has been accustomed to various styles of conductors within the grand symphonic chorales – but going a Capella (unaccompanied voices) is quite distinct. It is risky and quite exposed. The result has been excellent. Sheldon is a conductor of the old schooling: an era dominated by ones whim [impulse/spontaneity], allowing to sing, directing horizontally so that the sound is allowed to expand, awaiting the full bloom of resonance, and returning to the line. His best contribution (apart from the black spiritual) occurs in the religious romantic - Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Casals, Gorriti - where he attains a defined legato, with sweet and tasteful cadences, but in contrast to some big thunderous moments, frankly beautiful, that later mellowed into a final conclusive pianissimo of emoting beauty. In this musical moment the Orfeon is powerful. Sheldon manages to escape the pitfall which is commonly found in this repertory: the boring and monotonous mezzoforte; he goes to extremes, with courage, and the result is a grand sound, beautiful, malleable into a continuous tone. And Bruckner is given a cathedral-like sound with densities in places (Locus Iste), in depth (Virga Jesse), even in its harsher edges (Inveni David). Along that line: the Brahms opened the evening - the Requiem ended it-, the most lovable were Mendelssohn or Rheinberger; the unknown and of special substance Casals and Gorriti, in which I am stopped because the continuous ringing contributed by the Choir was an intensity of choral voices, which reached another dimension. The Chorus displayed brilliance and power, with substance and vividness. The black spirituals, were splendid, polyphonic, musically substantive, without excessive choreography.

With the Faure Requiem, in my opinion the approach was thrown towards the Romantic. It is true that others approach this work with varied interpretations - more complex than it may appear – with certain preciousness, but, sometimes they are guilty of fussiness. Sheldon is daring in taking a pronounced direction, calling for Fortes, and bringing final pianissimos to a closed vocalization. The director is consistent in his approach: there are contrasts, although perhaps breaking a bit of the Impressionistic veil of the work. In fact, the famous In Paradisum at the end may require another flight, it was too close to the ground; and the soloists – of rotund voices - abused a bit the dynamics. However, the Soprano-Alto duo in the Domine was exhuisite, and the chorus responded to these interpretations: that of a requiem more exalted than usual. The organist, as always, very remarkable. And the trombones, solemn and breathtaking. The audience, standing on their feet, were given an encore: Little innocent Lamb, a more playful black spiritual.

SPANISH

Fue un concierto largo, denso, no precisamente de superficialidad presanferminera, sino profundo y comprometido, de resistencia vocal, variado, con algun tramo discutible de ejecucion; pero convincente, rotundo, siempre en maxima alerta de tension, y con un Bruckner de antologia (Orfeon), y un Gorriti de referencia (Orfeon y Escolania). Y con un protagonist indiscutible el director norteamericano Douglas Sheldon, El Orfeon esta acostumbrado a todo tipo de directores, pero en las grandes obras sinfonico corales, a capella (voces solas) es distinto. Es arriesgado y muy comprometido. La experiencia ha sido excelente. Sheldon es un dierector de la vieja escuela: domina la centuria a su antoja, deja cantar, dirige a lo horizontal, para que se explaya el sonido, espera la resonancia, y retorna la frase. Su mejor aportacion (aparte los negros espirituales) se da en ese romanticism religioso – Bruckner, Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Casals, Gorriti – Donde consigue un frasco ligado pero definido, con cadencies melosas y amables, pero en contraste con unos fuertes atronadores y empastados, francamente hermosos, que luego descansaran en unos pianissimos finales de una belleza conclusive emocionante. En este period musical el Orfeon es invencible. Sheldon consigue huir de lo peor que se suele dare en ese repertorio: un mesoforte aburrido y monotono; el va a los extremos, con valentia, y el resultado es un sonido grande, hermoso, maleable hasta el continuo matiz. Y Bruckner suena con densidades catedralicias, en su lugar (Locus Iste); en su profundidad (Virga Jese). Incluso en sus duras aristas (Inveni David). En esa linea: el Brahms que abria la velada – el requiem al fondo-, el amabilisimo Mendelssohn o Rheinberger; el desconocido y de especial enjundia Casals y Gorriti en el que me detengo porque la aportacion del timbre de la escolania con las voces graves del coro mayor, tambien alcanzo otra dimension. La Escolania lucio brillo y potencia, empaste y luminosidad. Los negros espirituales, esplendidos, muy polifonicos, y de enjundia musical, sin excesiva coreografia.

En cuanto al Requiem de Faure, a mi juicio el planeamiento fue tirando a romantico. Es verdad que otras versions se acercan a esta obra – mas compleja de lo que parece- con cierto preciosismo, pero, a veces se peca de noñeria. Sheldon se atreve con una acusada regulacion, pide Fuertes, y los pianissimos finales los lleva a la voca cerrada. El director es coherente con su planteamiento: hay contrastes, quizas rompa un poco ese velo impressionista de la obra: efectivamente, el famoso In Paradisum final, quizas requiera otro vuelo, esta demasiado pegado a la tierra; y los solistas – de voces rotundas- abusaron un tanto de volume. Pero el duo sopranos-altos en el Domine fue precioso, y el coro respondio a ese planteamiento: el de un requiem mas engrandecido de lo acostumbrado. El organist, como siempre, muy notable. Y los trombones, solemnes y sobrecogedores. El public, en pie, De Propina: Little innocent Lamb, un negro spiritual mas jugueton.

Teobaldos, Music - Daily News
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