In the beautiful setting of Northampton’s Market Square students from the local University put a consciously modernist interpretation to Mozart’s great work.
When writing this piece Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was very aware of his own mortality and, indeed, the Requiem was unfinished on his death at the tragically young age of 35. and many scholars have speculated that he was writing this Requiem for his own funeral. The incomplete score has left much room for interpretation and many groups and musicologists have tried to expand on Mozart’s work. Perhaps the boldest I have witnessed is tonight’s performance. Using modern instrumentation along with a more traditional choir perfectly encapsulates what Mozart intended. Much of his work has an emotional, expressive depth that entices the listener to look beneath the surface and the juxtaposition of the modern and antiquated captures some of this tension.
As twilight creeps over the Market Square the audience is greeted with, what most people would least expect from Mozart’s Requiem: an electric guitar. Coupled with more traditional classical fare of a chamber choir a sound is created that occasionally brings to mind progressive rock bands like Yes and The Moody Blues. However after the instrumental Introitus the chorus transports us, almost magically, from the Market Square to an eighteenth century chapel with a vocal display that conjures images of cloisters and cathedrals. The Requiem is full of counterpoints and tensions of opposites and it is to the credit of all involved that the performance straddles the perfect line between the past and present.
With the guitars and crashing drums the sound peaks and troughs like ocean waves which, in turn, highlights the light and shade that exists within the Requiem. There is a real character to Mozart’s Requiem and a balance must be maintained between retaining this while allowing the piece to remain playable . What makes this achievement more impressive is that it’s performed by students from Northampton University who, despite their tender years, stage an impressive, professional performance. A triumph.