Composed by a beleaguered and failing Mozart on his deathbed, packed with some of the master’s most tempestuous and soulful writing, shrouded with an aura of drama and intrigue, and subject to endless scrutiny by musical scholars, Mozart’s Requiem is one of classical music’s unquestioned and most intriguing masterpieces.
And this May, Peterborough-area music lovers will have a chance to experience this monumental work, when the 100-voice Peterborough Singers wrap up the choir’s 2016-17 season with a performance of the Requiem at Emmanuel United Church, formerly George St. United Church, on Saturday, May 6, 2017.
Joining the Singers will be some of Canada’s best-renowned soloists, including tenor Benjamin Butterfield, an opera veteran whose presence has graced some of the great stages of the world, including Carnegie Hall, and Juno-award-winning counter-tenor Daniel Taylor.
The Requiem features “some of Mozart’s finest writing,” says Peterborough Singers’ Artistic Director Syd Birrell. “It’s stunningly well written, full of dramatic contrast. This is why it’s always in the top 10 of oratorios, and beloved by choirs the world over.”
The prominence of the work in the popular imagination has certainly not been harmed by the somewhat sinister tales surrounding the circumstances of its composition, famously dramatized (most would say over-dramatized) in the film Amadeus.
There’s the mysterious messenger who (according to Mozart’s wife) commissioned the piece; Mozart’s alleged haunted premonition that he was composing his own requiem mass; dubious allegations that he was poisoned; and finally, the uncertainty about how much of the work was actually written by Mozart, or by the man who completed it after his death: Franz Xaver Sussmayr.
“Though full of dark and brooding emotions, the Requiem also includes quintessentially Mozartian sections, bubbling over with joy,” says Birrell. “It’s full of hope of the next life. There’s the whole gamut of human emotion found in this work.”
Anchoring the choir will be Juno-award-winning organist Ian Sadler, perhaps best known to the public for his work on The Chariots of Fire soundtrack. Recital tours have taken Ian to Denmark, Sweden, Austria, the continental USA and Hawaii, Australia, and back to the UK, where he recently performed his third organ recital at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.
The Requiem itself, however, is only a 55-minute work — not enough to fill the program of an entire concert. “So what do you do with the rest of the concert?” asks Birrell. “You have four brilliant soloists, and you get them to sing.”
In the first half of the show, Butterfield, Taylor, soprano Ellen McAteer, and baritone Alex Dobson will delight the audience with some of Mozart’s best-known, virtuosic arias from his many operas, such as the Papageno-Papagena duet from The Magic Flute. Pianist Steven Philcox will accompany the arias.