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This concert re-assembles a program that made an outstanding impact in Astra’s 2015 season. It brings together two larger works offering highly individual perspectives on the centenary of World War I – from Russia in 1916 a wartime composition of idealistic scope, seeking to unite East and West in traditions of language and liturgy, and from Australia in 1999 another multi-lingual composition, creating a musical space for the secular voices of leading poets of the day who were direct witnesses to the event.
Phoebe Green, solo viola
The Astra Choir with speakers, solo singers and instrumental ensemble conducted by John McCaughey
Choral Scenes from 1999 is the largest of several works composed for Astra by Helen Gifford over the last 50 years. It is unique in its particular form, creating an environment of choir and an array of instruments, including tuba and percussion, around 17 poems from the Western Front, World War 1. The texts, in English, French and German reflect both the disaster of the experience and the highest quality writing of the era
Alexander Kastalsky, Requiem for Fallen Brothers (1916, arranged by Graham Hair 2014) soloists, choir and string quintet - second Australian performance
Alexander Kastalsky's centennial Requiem for Fallen Brothers was written in multiple musical styles and languages of the allied combatants of the Great War, from Orthodox eastern countries to the Catholic and Anglican west. The music creates a remarkable composite vision of the Requiem liturgy which nowadays might be considered ‘postmodern’, from a skilled and original composer and former student of Tchaikovsky. It fell into obscurity in post-revolutionary Russia, but has recently been arranged by the Australian composer Graham Hair as a version with string quintet for the Russkaya Cappella choir in Scotland.
Helen Gifford, Choral Scenes. The Western Front World War I (1999) for speakers, solo singers, choir and ensemble
Helen Gifford drew on an array of 14 poets in English, French and German for her Choral Scenes commissioned for the Astra Choir in 1999, representing the finest poetic level of the era, and all writing out of first-hand experience of the battlefields. Its unique form is quite distinct from the traditional war oratorio. The poems are allowed to build their own scenic spaces in a sonic environment of speakers, choir and an array of instruments, including tuba and percussion.
Helen Gifford, Desperation for solo viola (2014)
Vlad-Răzvan Baciu, Ascensio per tonos - ante crucem for 12 voice choir (2008)
Riccardo Vaglini, Noli timere for choir and percussion (2015)
Three shorter, more recent works include Helen Gifford’s solo viola composition Desperation; from Romania Vlad-Răzvan Baciu’s wordless choral texture evoking the via dolorosa; and from Venice a recently-premiered setting from Revelations by Riccardo Vaglini, creating an acoustic theatre of 4 solo sopranos, pianissimo choir, timpani and bells.