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December 4, 2004

Vienna Boys' Choir concert heavenly

Cincinnati Enquirer (OH):

Thursday evening in the sanctuary of St. Margaret of York's spectacular new church, The Vienna Boys' Choir presented a concert that continues a 500-year tradition of bringing vocal music by young voices to audiences around the world. A full house of almost 1,000 people heard the famous choir under the direction of Kerem Sezen. The Hapsburg emperor, Maximilian I of Austria, began the institution of a boys' choir in 1498 that has evolved into a group of 100 choristers between the ages of 10 and 14 and is divided into four choirs that present 300 concerts a year.

The choir marched into the church wearing their traditional "sailor suits" and opened the program with a strong performance of Carl Orff's dark and solemn "O Fortuna" from "Carmina Burana." Evident from the beginning was a precision of diction and harmony and a surprising strength of sound from such young voices. The Gregorian chant "Ave Maria" was sung a cappella and in unison for a chilling and gothic sound. The ethereal and transparent harmonies of "O salutaris hostia" by Giovanni Nascus floated up to the ceiling of the cavernous space like wisps of smoke. "Jubilate Deo" by Heinrich Schutz was a remarkable demonstration of antiphonal singing from both sides of the stage. "Hebe deine Augen auf" from the oratorio "Elijah" by Mendelssohn contains delicate melodic lines that were carefully interwoven and sustained by the young singers. "Zigeunerleben" (Gypsy Life) by Robert Schumann had lots of vigor and a beautiful piano accompaniment by Director Sezen.

The Aaron Copland nonsense piece, "I Bought Me a Cat," was sung with appropriate frivolity, but Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom" lacked the jazzy swing of true African-American spiritual music. The "Annen-Polka" and "Vergnügungszug" by Viennese waltz king Johann Strauss Jr. were certainly closer to the heart of this Austrian group.

After the intermission, the choir sang a mix of Christmas carols from Germany, France, England and America. They were all sung with impeccable phrasing, diction and clarity of sound. After a standing ovation, the choir sang two encores: a song by Mozart and a heavenly "Silent Night." St. Margaret of York's music director, Javier Clavere, has created an auspicious beginning for a concert series.

Posted by acapnews at December 4, 2004 12:45 AM