Schubert First, 2007
Two newly published major works by Schubert were given a first NZ performance by the CBS Choir and Orchestra in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 3 pm on Sunday, September 9, 2007. The popular 5th Symphony was framed by premieres of his Magnificat and First Mass in F Major. Schubert’s First Mass was written in 1814, when the composer was 17, for his parish church. It is a remarkable achievement, reflecting the classical traditions maintained by his composition tutor, Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, but filled with astonishing emotional depth, ushering in the new age of romantic expression. For the original performance, Schubert chose to conduct, assembled the singers and large orchestra from his friends, and included some delectable and difficult arias for his soprano sweetheart. The Magnificat, dating from two years later, also includes an uncommonly high soprano part for the same reason, but gives equal scope (as does the Mass) to the usual other three soloists. Again, a full symphonic grandeur and some very individual and striking harmonic touches make this a significant example of Schubert’s genius. Soloists were soprano Sue Densem, alto Ruth Close, tenor Wally Enright and bass Howard Harvey. Leader of the orchestra was David Williams, with Ellen Doyle as principal cello, and musical director was Don Whelan.
Among Schubert’s acclaimed other orchestral works, the 5th Symphony is the most charming, indebted to the formal structures of Haydn and particularly Mozart, but brimming with lovely melodies and showing some daring willingness to break the classical mould. A reduced instrumentation, dispensing with trumpets and drums, reminds the listener of Schubert’s genius as a writer of songs. This work was conducted by Grant Bartley, assistant musical director at the cathedral.