REVIEW / CONCERT
LANDSCAPES OF HEAVEN AND EARTH
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
They are just one year older than Singapore and, over the past decade, have made three visits here. Perhaps that accounts for the strong sense of empathy the A-cappella-Chor Villach, Austria, showed the audience in their latest Singapore concert.
Dressed in traditional Carinthian costume and with a magnificent golden-haired emcee stepping out from the choir to lead us through the proceedings and encourage us to sing along to the one Chinese number in the programme (Ban Ge Yue Liang Pa Shang Lai), they clearly know how to win the hearts of a Singapore audience.
The first part of the programme comprised mostly music drawn from the rich repertory of 18th- and 19th-century choral classics from Austria and Germany. There were Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms, all sung with obvious sincerity and care. The musical pinnacle was reached with an adorable performance of Bruckner's deeply prayerful Ave Maria.
Gerd Kenda conducted with unobtrusive gracefulness and if once or twice it seemed as if the choir was leading him along, rather than the other way round, that was excusable given that Kenda was stepping in as a last-minute replacement for the choir's usual director, Helmut Wulz.
The choir's own excellent pianist, Waltraud Wulz-Tschernuth, did the honours elsewhere with impeccably subtle and beautifully moulded accompaniments. She was particularly impressive in a choral arrangement of Johann Strauss's Kaiserwalzer.
To break the programme up, there were two purely instrumental items - the ever-popular Meditation from Thais, delicately played on the violin by Metalena Electra Wulz, and a strange rarity from Saint-Saens for solo harp, played by Alyssa-Rae Amlacher.
The second part of the programme comprised folk songs both from the choir's native Carinthia province and from the nearby regions of Italy and Slovenia.
While the Carinthian songs could possibly be accused of all sounding the same, the choir clearly loved singing them and produced a beautifully warm, glowing sound for these. An effortlessly soaring solo from soprano Christa Maurer added lustre to the final evocation of stars glittering in the sky.
The Italian song A Mezzanotte In Punto was about the only item in the entire programme which seemed about to make the choir break into a sweat. Otherwise, this was a programme intended to soothe rather than excite. And in that, it certainly succeeded.