Marking 20 years since the end of division between East and West Germany, Exultate Singers performed a concert including music from Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic in Clifton Cathedral on Remembrance Sunday.
The programme included the first performance of a new work set in Polish, modern English and Middle English by Roxanna Panufnik, for whose family the fall of the Berlin Wall was a life-changing event. The work, All Shall Be Well, is written for choir and solo cello and was premiered in this concert. Panufnik’s music is reflective and passionate and the piece is richly textured, with a sense of joy and optimism.
The concert also featured music from Eastern Europe including the UK premiere of Petr Eben’s vibrant and uplifting Prague Te Deum, sung in Czech, and personal accounts of the events surrounding the fall of the wall. Author and journalist Peter Millar spoke about his experiences which led to him being named Foreign Correspondent of the Year 1989 for his coverage of the Cold War culminating in the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Roxanna Panufnik – All Shall Be Well – World premiere
Petr Eben – Bitter Earth (sung in Czech) – UK premiere
Petr Eben – Prague Te Deum
Arvo Pärt – Berliner Messe (Kyrie and Gloria)
J. S. Bach – Sarabande from Cello Suite No 2 (as played by Rostropovich at the Berlin Wall)
J.S. Bach – Bourrée in C major
Andrzej Panufnik – Song to the Virgin Mary
George Crumb – Cello Sonata
Cellist – Richard May
The concert was preceded with a Q&A with Roxanna Panufnik who discussed her new piece with Oliver Condy (Editor of BBC Music Magazine and a member of the choir).
Rian Evans, reviewing for The Guardian:
“Pairing an old piece by Andrzej Panufnik with a new one by his daughter Roxanna was symbolic. Roxanna Panufnik took the plainsong hymn, Bogurodzica, invoking the protection of the mother of God – traditionally sung by Polish knights as they went to battle and hugely significant to her father – and interwove it with a setting of Julian of Norwich’s words, “All shall be well.” Using a double chorus with Richard May’s solo cello underpinning the voices but also swooping above them, the music progressed towards a joyous climax only to sound a haunting note at the end. Andrzej Panufnik’s Song to the Virgin Mary, conveying the anguish of the exiled composer, had a more emotional resonance. In this and in works by Petr Eben, the conviction of conductor David Ogden and his singers was never in doubt, though the testimony of author and journalist Peter Millar’s eyewitness accounts probably needed a platform of its own.”