Concert review: Milngavie Choir on song

READER Linda Ormiston sent us this review of a recent concert by Milngavie Choir.

The weather outside might have been unreasonably and unseasonably cold for the end of March but inside there was plenty of warmth - in the church itself and in the wonderful sounds produced by the choir, orchestra, organ and soloists during this excellent concert given by the Milngavie Choir, under its Music Director, Razvan Luculescu.

I had only heard Razvan as a pianist before, in his role as accompanist of Strathaven Choral Society but I was extremely impressed with his stylish conducting, both of the choir and of the orchestra - the first class Orchestra of Music Co-operative Scotland - created recently by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera.

Razvan’s musical intentions were crystal clear and he kept the forces beautifully balanced and always together. I particularly liked the arrangement of the choir on the opposing front balconies, with the orchestra on the floor of the church - there was almost a 3D effect and each section of the choir was able to really bring out the individual parts in the choruses, especially effective in the Mozart Requiem filled, as it is, with so many fugal passages.

The concert opened with two of my favourite Mozart pieces - the Ave Verum which started with a wonderfully balanced, atmospheric pianissimo from the choir, which built gradually until the climax of In mortis, which had a real feeling of internal power and then quietened back down to a wonderful homogenous choral sound at the end.

May I particularly commend the choir on their “OO” vowels - always tricky for native Scots to sing!! I thought Roxana Nite sounded a little nervous at the start of the Laudate Dominum, but she quickly settled into the long flowing lines with a real sense of serenity. Tu Virginum Corona is part of Mozart’s motet, Exsultate Jubilate, one of his most popular and enduring works and it was a real treat to hear the fine orchestral playing of the introduction - as it was to hear their playing throughout the concert! This was followed by some stylish singing from Roxana. And let me not forget organist Christopher Nickol the Music Director at New Kilpatrick Church, who played magnificently all evening.

The scene was thus set for the Requiem itself and it certainly lived up to all expectations. The choir was first class and had obviously been extremely well drilled by Razvan but at no time did the sound feel driven and members always managed to make the music sound fresh. The diction was crystal clear, the textures open and every little nuance was delicately brought out. There were some wonderfully powerful moments - Rex Tremendae - as well as some lovely sustained atmospheric singing in the Agnus Dei, for instance.

As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the placing of the choir, although it can’t have been easy for Razvan to have three separate areas to control and keep together. It made for a completely different kind of sound, always well balanced, despite the numerical differences between the sections and particularly effective in the fugal passages with that real stereo division of sound. It is a demanding sing for any choir and they coped extremely well, sustaining the tonal quality right to the very end and having plenty of bounce left for the crisp runs in the final movement. The four soloists were a powerful blend and also impressed individually- Roxana admirably sustaining the high lines on the top of the quartet and their special guest, George-Emil Crasnaru bringing a real Slavic intensity to the bass part, underpinning the quartet with ease and especially effective in his sweeping Tuba Mirum. Catriona Morison and Stephen Chambers are both products of the RCS and both, I am sure, have great careers ahead of them - Catriona has a beautiful creamy mezzo quality to her voice and spun out a lovely line at the beginning of the Benedictus and Stephen has a splendid tenor voice, which he used to excellent effect.

Many congratulations to the Milngavie Choir and to their conductor, Razvan Luculescu. All in all, a wonderful evening of Mozart!