Thursday, 24 July 2014

KCCC's tour of the Antipodes

King's College Choir, Cambridge, are in the Antipodes.  They sang Monteverdi's Cantate Domino on breakfast TV this morning:

Their concerts have been reviewed here, here, here and here.  Download the program here.

You can hear their Melbourne concert here (program 2).  The choir sounds in good form, and the reviews (except for one of the two Sydney Morning Herald reviews) have been glowing.  The Sydney Morning Herald article by Clive O'Connell was concerned about a certain blandness to the program, or the performance of the various pieces thereof.  I am not convinced that those observations are borne out, but in any event I think there is a more problematic aspect to the programs - they are a bit sparse, for the price of the tickets anyway (up to about $130).  The first program at least contains a major work, the Faure Requiem.  However, even then the accompaniment is organ only.  King's could muster the orchestral forces for their latest recording of this work (and their innumerable previous recordings of the work).  In fact, I am not aware of any recordings that opt for the 'liturgical' approach of organ only.  Why, then, is this a satisfactory state of affairs for an audience charged handsomely for their tickets?  On the choir's tour of Asia last year, local orchestras were engaged.  It seems like this time an opportunity was missed to collaborate with the ACO, the ABO, or some other very fine local ensemble.  In contrast, in Cambridge earlier this year, I attended a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion (an immense work) with full orchestra and soloists.  Top price tickets were significantly less than top price tickets for the Choir-only concerts in the Antipodes.  The choir and/or orchestra then backed up for various Easter services, and a performance of Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt, a few days later.

Perhaps a comparison of two videos will best demonstrate my point.  I wish to stress that I am not saying that the performance with organ accompaniment will not be exceedingly beautiful.  Perhaps it could even be as beautiful as the orchestrated version.  What I am saying is that for absolutely premium tickets, to see a top choir, at a major venue such as the Sydney Opera House, the expectation is that a work like the Faure Requiem would be in one of its orchestrated versions.

Organ only:

With orchestration:

A shame, because the Antipodean concerts have been, and will continue to be, excellent in every other respect.