St Albans Chamber Choir with Wormser Kantorei
Sat, 27 April 2019
Mozart – Krönungsmesse (Coronation Mass)
Vaughan Williams – Dona nobis pacem
Handel – Zadok the Priest
Mozart’s Mass No. 15 in C major, K. 317, later known as the Krönungsmesse (Coronation Mass), was first performed on Easter Sunday, 4 April 1779 in Salzburg Cathedral. The 23-year-old Mozart had just taken up the post of court organist and composer to the exacting Archbishop Colloredo and was required to write a missa brevis (short Mass) but with full orchestral accompaniment and four soloists. His response was to create a 30-minute masterpiece capable of filling a huge cathedral and creating an atmosphere of great joy. The nickname Krönungsmesse was added in 1862 but its origin is obscure. It may stem from the Mass having been performed in Prague in 1791 at the coronation of Leopold II and also of Francis I the following year. It certainly became popular at the Imperial Court in Vienna in the early nineteenth century as the preferred music for coronations.
Vaughan Williams served with the Royal Army Medical Corps on the Western Front in World War 1. He wrote the cantata Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace) in 1936 amid widespread anguish that the worsening political situation in Europe would lead again to war. His passionate, heartfelt plea for peace uses texts from poems by Walt Whitman, himself a hospital volunteer during the American Civil War, a speech given in the House of Commons in 1855 by John Bright in an attempt to prevent the Crimean War, sections of the Bible and part of the Mass. From its initial anguished cry, the work dramatically depicts the violence of war then moves into a quieter reflective sequence of reconciliation. The work is scored for choir, large orchestra and soprano and baritone soloists.
Zadok the Priest is the most popular of the four anthems which Handel composed for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline in Westminster Abbey on 11 October 1727. The words from the Book of Kings have been sung at every English coronation since that of King Edgar in Bath Abbey in 973, and Handel's setting has been sung at every British one since 1727.
St Albans Chamber Choir has been a major contributor to the musical life of the St Albans area and further afield for 60 years, delighting audiences with music from the last six centuries and winning awards for its innovative programming. This extensive repertoire and a cappella performances are the Choir’s hallmarks, and under the direction of its inspirational Musical Director John Gibbons, the Choir continues to explore new repertoire, often bringing its audience little known compositions ranging from modern performances of early works to new commissions from contemporary composers such as Jonathan Rathbone, Tarik O’Regan and Alexander L'Estrange, whose 60th anniversary commission, The Prophet, will be performed by the choir in February.
The Wormser Kantorei is an oratorio choir founded in 1955 by Tobias Ihle. It has performed all the major choral works from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 to Tippett’s A Child of our Time, with the works of J S Bach as particular favourites. It regularly performs with professional orchestras. Stefan Merkelbach has been its Musical Director since 2000.
The link between the two choirs began in 1969 with a town-sponsored visit to Worms by the Chamber Choir. This was followed by a visit to St Albans in 1971 by the choir now known as the Wormser Kantorei, and the first joint concert in what has become the longest-established link in St Albans’ town-twinning programme.
For fifty years the two choirs have met and made music together every other year, alternately here and in Germany, and there are many friendships between individual choir members that have been running nearly as long. Among the many memorable concerts that the joint choirs have given over the years, that of 1985, the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II, was particularly significant. Britten’s War Requiem, written for the bombed and rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, was performed in the bombed and restored Trinity Church in Worms, the two orchestras conducted by the two conductors whose own personal friendship did so much to establish and nurture the link: Tobias Ihle and Richard Stangroom.
Today the link is stronger than ever and we celebrate fifty years of music-making together with a concert conducted by both current Musical Directors.
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