Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

REVIEW ; Class Is in Session, Tonight's Lesson Is Brahms

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

REVIEW ; Class Is in Session, Tonight's Lesson Is Brahms

Article excerpt

The West Virginia Symphony was in teaching mode Saturday night at the Clay Center. Not teaching the audience anything, since anyone who follows Western art music would know Brahms' "German Requiem, that highly-serious, Lutheran-influenced answer to all those stentorian Catholic requiems (well, and Berlioz), from repeated hearings. No, the teaching came in giving the choruses from five West Virginia universities the chance to sing one of the great pillars of the choral repertoire with a first-rate orchestra.

So the WVSO's Symphony Chorus, David Castleberry, conductor, was augmented by the West Virginia University Chorus, Kym Scott, conductor, the Marshall University Chamber Choir, Castleberry again, the Fairmont State University Chorus, Samuel Spears, conductor, and the West Virginia State University Chorus, Dirk Johnson, conductor.

This huge choral force, seemingly 300 strong, made for forceful volumes in the composition's several climaxes. The second movement, "All flesh is as grass (the performance was sung in German), and the sixth, "For we have here no continuing place, had arresting sonority.

But the quieter moments were maybe even better. The same second movement opened darkly and quietly in the choruses' low ranges to haunting, apt effect. The gentle fourth movement, "How lovely is your dwelling place, had a lighter-than-air texture in its shifting internal harmonic lines.

Only a few problems emerged. The sopranos sounded strained at the beginning of the seventh movement, "Blessed are the dead. The running lines of the fugue over the droning bass at the end of the third movement were not sharply focused, robbing the piece of momentum. And, as one would imagine with a group that size, pitch was not perfect in spots.

Still, the good, even the superb, outweighed the bad.

Paul K. Kreider, a baritone, and Amy Little, a soprano, sang adroitly in the solo roles. …

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