My first (and last) concert of baroque music for 2017 let me see out the year with Bach (Gloria in Excelsis Deo and the Orchestral Suite #1) and Händel (Dettingen Te Deum and as an encore the “Hallelujah” chorus from Messiah). The Chorus and Orchestra of the Cappella Albertina Wien (named not for the museum but for a chapel inside the Cathedral) performed in the Vienna’s Franciscan Church of St. Jerome, famous for having the city’s oldest organ.
The baroque church fit the music by look – except that I was not clear if the sound was due to poor acoustics or the singing style of the chorus itself. This is a music group that performs almost exclusively in churches (including three concerts a year in this church), so it should know something about church acoustics, which do indeed require a more restrained and more staccato technique. But not tonight, I suppose. The chorus barely made itself heard over the orchestra, itself hardly overpowering. Sometimes they managed – either for segments with limited orchestration, or when they just wanted to (such as in the Hallelujah encore). The orchestra also sounded maybe too restrained, except for when the brass got to chime in, as they offered quite clear interventions (albeit not always hitting the notes quite right). In general, the whole performance was actually quite good musically, it’s just that it came across as underwhelming – something was just not right in the balance. The ensemble’s young conductor, Teresa Riveiro Böhm looked in control, demonstratively as a church choir conductor often is. Could it have been her fault, or was it something peculiar with the acoustics in this particular church (although again, this group knows this church, and so could and should have performed accordingly)?