Amarcord reviewed in Village Voice Balmain

Steve Moffatt, Village Voice Balmain
23 July 2012

Singing groups have a rich and long history in Germany, dating back to the Minnesingers – or troubadours – of the 1100s.

It was around this time that St Thomas’s church in Leipzig established its choir, which 600 years or so later premiered the great St John and St Matthew Passions of their Cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Another 400 years on from then and five St Thomas choirboys decided to set up a little a cappella group and go on the road.

The result is Amarcord, not named for any Baroque connection but after the film by the Italian auteur Federico Fellini.

It’s this amalgam of the old with the new, the sacred with the profane (sometimes extremely profane!) that gives this quintet their unique character and accounts for their ability to fill concerts halls around the world.

The musical precision and blend is superb, as you would expect from musicians who have known each other since childhood, but what makes them special is their comedic skill and excellent line in patter.

Brothers Wolfram and Martin Lattke are the tenors, and Wolfram is a natural entertainer. Bass Daniel Knauft has a line in wit, too, and fellow bass Holger Krause is ever willing to play the clown alongside baritone Frank Ozimek.

This makes for an entertaining couple of hours – no mean feat with just five voices singing unaccompanied.

After Bach’s time Leipzig became a centre of the Romantic music movement, being home to both Mendelssohn and Schumann. Schubert also wrote pieces for the singing groups which were now so much a part of university and cultural German life.

Amarcord’s tour with Musica Viva – their first, though not their first visit to Australia – features two programs covering four centuries from the Renaissance to the present day.

The most substantial work on program two was Dans la montagne by Frenchman (and rear-admiral) Jean Cras. These five songs describe a day in the mountains from the tolling church bell to the fall of night.

But the highlights of the show were the mock heroic Declaration of Love by a Tailor’s Apprentice by the now obscure 19th century operatic composer Heinrich August Marschner, superbly brought to life by Wolfram Lattke, and a hilarious anonymous French drinking song.

Amarcord appear again at the City Recital Hall Angel Place with a different program of works – intriguingly titled Tales of Love and Murder – on Monday, July 30, at 7pm. Bookings musicaviva.com.au or call 1800 688 462.

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About Musica Viva Australia

Welcome to Musica Viva’s International Concert Season blog. Here you can follow and read more about our wonderful touring artists.

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