Scottish Chamber Orchestra – Philippe Herreweghe conducts Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and Mozart’s Requiem

Kyrie in D minor, K341
Symphony No.8 in B minor (Unfinished)
Requiem, K626 [completed Süssmayr]

Julia Kleiter (soprano), Diana Haller (mezzo-soprano), Benjamin Bruns (tenor) & Michael Nagy (baritone)

SCO Chorus

Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Philippe Herreweghe

Reviewed by: Gregor Tassie

Reviewed: 13 March, 2015
Venue: City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland

Philippe HerreweghePhotograph:

For the opening work it was propitious to select the brief Kyrie, from 1781, written a decade before the valedictory Requiem, for not only is it in the same demoniac key of D minor but some of the music also anticipates it. Philippe Herreweghe arranged for the fickle acoustic to position the double basses and the cellos on left, and to employ antiphonal violins. The introductory bars on strings were graceful, somewhat noble, and the thumps on timpani set an unequivocally deathly note. From such a simple musical idea, Mozart evolves a quite marvellous harmony in creating an effect of deep humanity – a worthwhile start to this concert themed with tragic works by two of the greatest melody-makers of all.

Herreweghe has a manner similar to a schoolmaster: he approaches the rostrum as if walking to his desk. For Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony he walked on with the score under his arm. The darkly-hued opening on cellos was keenly joined by the rest of the strings and there was a wonderful soliloquy from the clarinet of Maximiliano Martin. The conductor adopted a somewhat measured, intrinsically poignant tempo, and pointed out the detail of Schubert’s writing, yet perhaps lost the symphonic line. In the second-movement Andante, there was some richly golden tone from strings and brass, Herreweghe continuing his microscopic examining of the score, infinite elements emerging, yet without the customary grandeur. The concluding bars were heavenly, however.

In Mozart’s Requiem, Herreweghe displayed total attention to the music without any histrionics. The elegant opening on clarinet and bassoon was a little underwhelming, and the ‘Introitus’ sounded a little restrained from the Chorus – a slightly low-key atmosphere of misfortune and of foreboding. There came stridency however in the ‘Kyrie’ and rather fine singing from Julia Kleiter, and in the ‘Sequentia’, all four soloists were excellent, while there were some splendid contributions from the strings. Diana Haller was magnificent in ‘Qui Mariam absolvisti’. The terrible menace in ‘Confutatis maledictus’ was heralded with superb intonation from the Chorus’s sopranos, the exquisite strings enhanced the elegy of the ‘Lacrimosa’, and in the ‘Agnus Dei’ Kleiter was once again sublime. This was a magnificent and beautiful performance.

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