Review: "Carefully ascending passion curve" (Kronenzeitung - Austria)

Neuberg Culture Days:  Opening with Joseph Haydn’s oratorio in the cathedral
With Heinz Fischer listening carefully – as a tradition, Austrian Federal President spend their summer holidays in Mürzsteg, nowadays within the municipality of Neuberg –, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Vienna Singing Academy opened officially the Neuberg Culture Days. By conducting Haydn’s oratorio "The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross", theatre director Stefan Vladar presented a major piece of classical music.

Except for the final quake of "Presto, e con tutta la forza", Joseph Haydn has composed "The Seven Last Words" with the original function of ritual passion music in pretty lengthy movements. This oratorio’s design, created by Haydn in 1787 as purely instrumental music and even in the later version without any complexity as a very plain piece, made it pretty much more appropriate for a performance in the spacey hall of the Neuberg Cathedral than a Verdi requiem or Beethoven’s "Ninth" e.g.

Stefan Vladar managed the celebration’s orchestra with calm and overview; he arranged Haydn’s economical structures to a harmoniously catchy, intonationally neat and thoroughly well-balanced musical body with refreshing rests in-between without straining its beautiful classical proportions.
With its first impetuous entry “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, the Vienna Concert House’s choir perfectly trained by Heinz Ferlesch performed majestically and clearly in homophonic movement, and the solos  Seri Baek (soprano), Sonja Brühling (alto), Sascha Zarrabi (tenor) and Daniel Weiler (bass) could excel mostly well with expressive vibrato. Only the soprano’s sharp passion forte across the performance felt occasionally monolithic to the ears.
Very clearly, Vladar energised the first tragic turn to the F minor of “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”; the choir joined drastically the tenor’s hesitant “I thirst”, and the dynamic reserves for the crashing staccato of the final “Il Terremenoto” proved considerable.
             Kronenzeitung (Austria), 2015 07 12