Passio | The Hilliard Ensemble

The Hilliard EnsemblePhoto - Friedrun Reinhold

Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi (secundum Joannem)
is the second performance by The Hilliard Ensemble at the 2010 Perth International Festival. Conducted by Joseph Nolan (Organist and Master of the Choristers at St Georges Cathedral Perth), it was a brilliant performance by little known Estonian composer Arvo Pӓrt.

The Hilliard Ensemble is world renown for their performances not only in early music, but their work with living composers and new music. Together for almost 30 years, they formed a long standing relationship with Arvo Pӓrt after recording Passio in 1988.

Passio is a piece where the text and voice take centre stage over the orchestral music. Along with the four members of the outstanding Hilliard Ensemble, WA based Andrew Foote, Jane Edwards and the St Georges Cathedral Consort brought exquisite professionalism to the performance.

Musicians Leanne Glover (Oboe), Jane Kircher (Bassoon), Shaun Lee-Chen (Violin), Eve Silver (Cello) and Stewart Smith (Organ) comprised the five musicians that added depth and ably supported the singers.

It was an interesting stage setup, with the three evangelists (David James, Rogers Covey-Crump, and Gordon Jones - Hilliard) and Edwards standing behind the musicians on one side, and the Consort standing on the other. On either side of the organist in the choir stood Andrew Foote as Jesus and Steven Harrold (Hilliard) as Pilate. No sound enhancement was required, the voices came across powerfully and clear.

Sung in Latin, subtitles were shown on two screens either side of the stage. They were slightly distracting, although it was nice to know the details of what was going on. The emotion was evident in the singing, but the translation did add value. My criticism of the subtitles would be the size of the text – I was towards the back and struggled to read them.

Founded two years ago, the St Georges Cathedral Consort is made up of 18 singers. Lead by Joseph Nolan, they primarily sing evensong at the cathedral, but in 2009 performed in the Cathedral Concert Series. Their diction, precision and control were brilliant and I hope the general Perth music going audience get to see more of this group in the near future.

Silence and stillness is a key part of Pӓrt’s Passio, and ironically it is here that the performers excel. There were many moments were you felt the performers and audience were holding their breath – it was a brilliant study of constraint and concentration from all. This was a treat for music lovers and festival goers.

The Hilliard Ensemble
Arvo Pӓrt

Conducted by Joseph Nolan

Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Date/Time: Thu 25 Feb @ 7.30pm
Duration: 1hr 15min no interval
Tickets: $57.50 - $37.50

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