Saturday, September 21, 2013

Nederlands Kamerkoor - MacMillan, Gouttenoire, Kleppe, Tulev & Daniel-Lesur - 09/16/13

Conductor: Risto Joost
James MacMillan: Laudi alla vergine Maria
Philippe Gouttenoire: Logoi
Joost Kleppe: Passavámos
Toivo Tulev: Car j'ai vécu de vous attendre
Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur: Le cantique des cantiques

Once our hectic but oh so enjoyable weekend over, my mum and I were still keen to take full advantage of our last day in Marseille with more sight-seeing during the day, including some exciting exhibits at the old Palais Longchamp's musée des Beaux-Arts and the new MuCEM, and more music at night, thanks to the much anticipated concert by the Dutch Nederlands Kamerkoor in the MuCEM's sleek auditorium. The rather late starting time of 9:30 PM had given us a brief pause, but the opportunity to hear this distinguished ensemble in such a cool and convenient venue was decidedly too good to pass.

Opening with a superbly lyrical work based on St Bernardino's prayer to the virgin Mary in Dante's "Il Paradiso", the choir quickly proved worthy of their sterling reputation. Combining the best in classical and contemporary vocal music while remaining effortlessly accessible, Nederlands Kamerkoor's remarkably assured handling of this striking piece predictably made an excellent first impression.
Philippe Gouttenoire's "Logoi" (Plural of "logos", which means word, language, reason), a world premiere commissioned by the choir, focused on languages threatened by extinction as well as seven assertive statements sung in some of the world's most predominant languages. As much as the original concept fundamentally appealed to the dedicated linguist in me and I appreciated the unusual interweaving style of the composition, I did not feel that it ever really took off, although the whirlwind at its center certainly gave it temporary momentum.
We were back, however, on more engaging territory next with Joost Kleppe's "Passávamos II", which was based on poems by Fernando Pessoa and happily combined the immediate attractiveness of Portuguese fados with the composer's own sense of harmony. As a result, the complex composition beautifully expressed a wide range of emotions that will be long remembered.
After intermission, Toivo Tulev's "Car j'ai vécu de vous attendre", another world premiere commissioned by Nederlands Kamerkoor, was lovely in a subdued sort of way. Although it did not really grab me, it was probably because of me, not them, as all the accumulated fatigue was by then taking me and my attention span over.
The last work on the program, Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur's "Le cantique des cantiques", was an ethereally soothing work, in which meaningful words and vocal sounds appeared purposely inserted in a seamless vocal tapestry. The discreet but solid virtuosity it required from the performers was on full display on Monday night, and this magnificent piece concluded the concert, and our extended weekend in Marseille, on a truly elating note.

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