Australian Chamber Choir Presents Mozart’s Requiem

The famously unfinished choral work reaches spectacular heights

By Leeor Adar 

The sheer uplifting majesty of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem sends shivers down the spine of the audience, because no matter how many times the choral numbers feature in ads, or our cinematic memories, nothing is quite as breathtaking as hearing it live before you in the echo chamber of a place of worship.

The Requiem’s completion is notoriously debated, as 25-year-old Franz Xaver Süssmayr completed what is approximate to one third of the work after the sudden death of Mozart in 1791.  Süssmayr’s finishing work is masterful in itself, although it is unclear if Mozart left some direction to the youngster. The overall piece, true to Mozart’s form, ends with a glorious fury, so Süssmayr certainly stayed true to the master, and it is performed and marvelled at centuries later.

Taking on its sheer intensity, the Australian Chamber Choir (ACC) accompanied by the Melbourne Baroque Orchestra performed its final show of Mozart’s Requiem at the Scots’ Church Melbourne on Sunday 22 of April to a brimming audience. The piece was previously performed in Castlemaine and Macedon, finally ending the tour with gusto in Melbourne.

The ACC under artistic direction of Douglas Lawrence OAM has attracted great talent over the years since its inception in 2007.  Lawrence’s ability to commission new works from Australia’s talented up-and-coming composers certainly garners respect. With a multitude of tours through Europe, the ACC was recognised in 2015 as honorary life members to Denmark’s oldest classical music festival, the Sorø International Music Festival, cementing its place amongst the classical music elite.

One current standout talent coming through the ACC is soprano Elspeth Bawden, who joined the choir in 2016. Bawden has been admitted into the Royal College of Music in London, and it is no surprise with her rich and beautiful clarity of voice that such an opportunity should present itself to her. Bawden’s solo contributions to the Requiem are heavenly in their sound and character. Bawden is accompanied by wonderful fellow soloists, Oliver Mann (bass baritone), Timothy Reynolds (tenor), and Elizabeth Anderson (contralto).

The rhythmic beauty of all the voices came to the fore in the Kyrie, which followed with an arresting Sequentia Dies Irae. The Dies Irae is possibly one of the most recognised and magnificent pieces of choral work, imposing itself like a battle cry upon its audience. In contrast, the moving fragility of the Agnus Dei, takes the audience to a most heavenly height.

Having experienced an array of emotions, I exited the church with a classical music and Mozart enthusiast who exclaimed, “that, was amongst the best I’ve heard.”

Mozart’s Requiem was performed in Castlemaine, Macedon and closed in Melbourne 22 April. To learn more about the ACC visit their official website.