National Chamber Choir/Roger O Doyle

 

The penultimate concert in the National Chamber Choir's Making Connections series, on Thursday, was devoted to the music of Brahms.

Connections were traced back to Bach, sideways to his contemporary Joseph Rheinberger and forward to Schoenberg and, rather stretching a point, Samuel Barber.

The conductor, the Oregon-based music professor Roger O. Doyle, has worked with the choir before. He conducted an all-American programme with distinction in 1998, and the performance of Barber's early Reincarnations, effective settings of three poems by James Stephens after Raftery, served as a reminder of the style and expressive point of that earlier concert.

But the focus of the evening, a selection from the copious choral output of Brahms, was less satisfactory. The solidity and conviction this music needs were missing, the frequent failure of the soprano line to blend fell unpleasantly on the ear and even the selection from one of the composer's most popular choral works, the Neue Liebeslieder, didn't gel.

Fergal Caulfield's piano accompaniments were woolly and lumpy, so the decision to replicate the composer's practice of using keyboard support seemed counterproductive in the highly antiphonal Komm, Jesu, Komm.

Apart from the Barber, the most enjoyable moments came in two pieces from Rheinberger's Geistliche Gesange, Op. 69 (Morgenlied and Abendlied) and in Es Gingen Zwei Gespielen Gut, a folk-song arrangement in which Schoenberg forsook his 12-tone technique for a nostalgic immersion in what you might call pre-revolutionary chromaticism.