Anton Bruckner failed to finish his ninth symphony, despite working on it for nine years before his death in 1896. The first three movements were complete when he made the questionable suggestion that the finale could be his Te Deum - written in 1884.
It was fascinating, therefore, to hear Bruckner’s Te Deum before the interval, and the three movements of his hour-long Ninth Symphony after the interval. For the Te Deum the four soloists joined the fifty strong voices of Collegium Vocale Gent - which had been founded by the conductor, Philippe Herreweghe, way back in 1970. They were in two tight rows immediately behind the Orchestra, of which he is Artistic Director and Principal Conductor.
The Orchestre des Champs-Élysées specialises in music written between the mid-18th and early 20th centuries and the players use period instruments. Under the baton of Philippe Herreweghe the Orchestra and Chorus were an impressive and polished team of musicians.
The concert had begun with the short Brahms Gesang der Parzen where the Chorus sung a setting of Goethe’s drama about the fate of Iphigenia and her family. The music is dark and melancholic and at the end the Chorus sung of the old man who thought of his children and grandchildren - only to shake his head.
By contrast Bruckner’s Te Deum was religious and joyful with some fine solo singing and at times the Orchestra almost drowning the Chorus, but not quite. In his Symphony No 9 the first movement belonged to the trumpets horns and trombones, the second to the strong repetitive string playing whilst the third brought it all together to make it the massive powerful work it is, even without a finale.
Philippe Herreweghe is to be congratulated yet again for giving us a superb evening’s music.
Event: Monday 20 August 2012 at 8pm