Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem in Quebec City

Who: Ottawa Bach Choir, Lisette Canton, conductor, Mélisande Sinsoulier, Frédéric Lacroix, piano
Soloists: Ellen McAteer, soprano; Geoffrey Sirett, baritone
Where: International des musiques sacrées de Québec, Église Saint-Dominique, Quebec City
Reviewed on: Sunday, September 7 – 4:00 PM

On the road again …

A typical Ottawa music season finds the Ottawa Bach Choir and its founder/conductor Lisette Canton giving three major concerts and occasionally participating in sundry events. Some summers they perform in Chamberfest and/or Music and Beyond. But these facts don’t tell the whole story. In June of this year they did a five-city European tour during which they were received with enthusiasm everywhere they went: Venice, Leipzig, Lubeck, Groningen and Amsterdam.

I was privileged to go along with them in Europe and last weekend I confirmed my status as a faithful groupie by accompanying them to Québec where they participated in the International des musiques sacrées de Québec. Their contribution was a fine, engrossing account of the Brahms German Requiem. It was given in the beautiful Église Saint-Dominique, situated on the Grand Allée near the Musée des beaux-arts.

(This might be the best place to disclose that I am friends with Lisette Canton and a few members of the choir. I don’t believe this compromises my objectivity, but what do I know?)

The original setting of this Requiem requires a large orchestra, but Brahms also arranged the accompaniment for two pianos to make performance accessible to groups of more modest resources. Similar in spirit, the piano-four-hands arrangement that the Bach Choir performed works well when it’s played well. In the hands of pianists Mélisande Sinsoulier and Frédéric Lacroix it worked very well.

The Bach Choir was at the top of its form, singing with understanding and conviction, not to mention great beauty. I attended parts of two rehearsals and, as in Europe, it was clear where the singers’ edge of greatness comes from. Conductor Canton leads rehearsals of intense efficiency, constantly demanding the very best. Of special note were the two fugues and the second movement that begins with a funeral march and ends in triumph.

Baritone Geoffrey Sirett’s dark, powerful voice was perfect for the two movements in which he had solos. Soprano Ellen McAteer had a little trouble initially focussing her sound in the central fourth movement, and perhaps could have sounded a little more ethereal as befits the text, but all in all it was a satisfying renditon.

Standing ovations don’t mean so very much these days, but the one the OBC received seemed particularly warm and spontaneous.


Copyright © 2024 Ottawa Bach Choir. All Rights Reserved. Ottawa web design VanquishLA