Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Two hours of sublime music featuring Schubert, Beethoven and Cherubini from one of Scotland’s foremost choral ensembles.
Cadenza has acquired a reputation as one of Scotland’s leading mixed voice choirs in the twenty years or so it has been performing. With a repertoire that ranges from the Renaissance to the present day, the choir has performed throughout Scotland and beyond and is as comfortable singing a cappella as it is with instrument accompaniment.
They’re a fixture at the Fringe and have acquired quite a following as a packed Greyfriar’s Kirk amply demonstrated. Under the musical directorship of Jenny Sumerling, this year’s offering was an ambitious programme featuring works by Schubert, Beethoven and Cherubini’s Requiem.
First up we had two Schubert pieces, Gebet and Gott ist mein Hirt, better known as Psalm 23. This presented a challenging start for the choir particularly the sopranos and tenors who were pushed to the upper limits of their respective ranges (and in some cases beyond) but careful attention to the complex dynamics and diction ensured that both pieces were well executed.
Where things really took off, however, was in the Beethoven Fantasia in C Minor, his “Choral Fantasy”, arguably also a significant contributor to his later Ode to Joy. Pianist Richard Beauchamp and the invited Cadenza Fringe Orchestra were a revelation, creating a musical dialogue that suggested they had been playing this piece together for years, rather than having joined forces a short time before the concert. Beauchamp’s interpretation was playful, almost conversational, encouraging a similar response in turn from every group of instruments in what was a musical masterclass.
The choir’s radiant entry was seamless, just as the piece demands. And, just when you thought that they might be sagging a little and in danger of becoming a little leaden footed, so Sumerling showed the choir the refreshing cuppa awaiting at the finish line and let nature and their instincts take over in what was a stirring, rousing finale. Inspiring, uplifting orchestration and singing that rattled the Greyfriars’ rafters.
Post-interval we had a delightful rendition of Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor with a reverential tone prevailing in the largely homophonic choral intonations in the Introit and Kyrie followed by a reflective, gentle Graduale. I was particularly impressed by the choir’s delivery of Dies Irae – alternately threatening, strident, passionate and resolute. Too often choirs focus on bashing out the black dots, forgetting about the emotional content of the music they are signing. Not here, you knew exactly how this lot felt. And the Lacrimosa dies illa was also sung to great effect, the haunting chromatic harmonies enhanced by some delicate, muffled timpani.
Perhaps there were a couple of moments when the male voices seemed a little hesitant and perhaps occasionally the female voices seemed a touch strident but these are trifles in what was an uplifting, moving and high quality rendition of some complex music. I’ve already put their 2017 Fringe date in my diary. So should you.