Choir work at the highest level: Musical town twinning Salzburg-Dresden

Sea Symphony - Dom zu Salzburg | © Michael Klimt

The weekend around 1 May was marked by an extraordinary musical bridge-building between Salzburg and Dresden: a cappella singing and choral symphonies, "night" and "sea", word and sound combined to create a multi-layered, dazzling spectrum of sound. The Dresden University Choir and the choirs of the Mozarteum University created two touching and uplifting concert experiences in Salzburg churches. A look back and a look forward.

Night Concert for the "Night

The fare was anything but easy. With its programme "Die Nacht ist kommen" (Night has come), the Dresden University Choir performed a brilliant night concert on 29 April in Salzburg's Kollegienkirche with vocal rarities around the titular theme of night. The overview, expressiveness and vocal sovereignty of the almost 80 students of the Technical (!) University of Dresden drew the audience - including Dresden's Rector Roswitha Böhm - into a breathtaking maelstrom of sounds. Choirmaster Christiane Büttig led her ensemble through the cliffs with a sure hand - be it in multi-choral works by Lorenzo Donati, in the musical meditations of an Arvo Pärt, in the "unheard-of" Shakespeare settings of Jaakko Mäntyjärvi or the music of the spheres by an Ériks Esenvalds. The ease, even effortlessness, with which the ensemble mastered all these difficulties - right down to the self-"played" water glasses - testifies to a profound, long-standing, disciplined and devoted leadership and guidance by the choir director and vocal coach. The concert was an impressive demonstration of what young people can achieve when solid choral work is institutionally valued and supported structurally and financially in the long term.

Main work "Sea Symphony

But the night concert was actually only the sideshow. The main piece and driving force of the choral encounter was a choral symphonic work of rarely heard calibre: the "Sea Symphony" by the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), first performed in Leeds in 1910. A work that, with rare opulence, delved deep into the pantheistic nature worship of Walt Whitman and unleashed oceanic masses of sound that flooded over the heads of visitors, musicians and singers. In the Salzburg Cathedral, the Academy Orchestra of the Mozarteum University, amplified by musicians from the Dresden Staatskapelle, provided the instrumental underlay for the singing of a large choir of 150 singers, who put their voices, their hearts and their skills entirely at the service of this Salzburg premiere. This cathedral concert in the presence of Rector Elisabeth Gutjahr and numerous professors of the university was preceded by months of preparation in both cities as well as intensive final rehearsals lasting several hours in the Salzburg Schüttkasten in the - completely rainy - days immediately before the performance. In his detailed review on the online medium DrehpunktKultur, Gottfried Franz Kasparek spoke praisingly of Jörn Andresen's "cheering, knowledgeable and masterly conducting". The masses of choir and orchestra had mastered the seventy-minute work "gloriously", the two soloists Donata Meyer-Kranixfeld and Sergej Korotenko had succeeded "brilliantly and with noble timbre" and the numerous audience had reacted with "great jubilation in the well-filled cathedral".

A recording of the concert can be seen HERE.


Outlook: Launching in Dresden

But the singular performance of the "Sea Symphony" is not the end of the story. At the beginning of July, the choirs and several instrumentalists of the Mozarteum University and, of course, the three soloists will travel to the city on the Elbe to perform the work together with the Dresden audience. The venue for this reunion will be the famous Kreuzkirche. The more than 150 singers will be accompanied by musicians of the Dresden Staatskapelle and members of the Academy Orchestra of the Mozarteum University. Christiane Büttig is the overall conductor.

To the event in Dresden (Opens in new tab)