Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 25th January

Hello everyone! A great rehearsal last night, with lots of good work done in sectionals learning the notes of the fugue in Movement III.

What we did on Wednesday 25th January

We started the rehearsal by singing through Movement IV Wie lieblich sind, much of which had stuck from the previous week which is excellent. We then worked on Letter C-D, breaking down each motif and slowly putting them together, ensuring notes were accurate and the melodic lines – such as in bars 143-148 – followed on nicely from each other. Tenors please note that bar 136 is a D, not a Bb. After this we looked at bars 269-290 in Movement II Denn alles fleish, making sure the entries come in in the right places, and the voices paired together (S/A in bar 273, for example) blended and were accurate with both rhythms and notes. Remember to embrace the strange rhythmic push at the bottom of page 24 (bars 284-286), with the 3-pulse against the 4 time signature. Before we took our break we sang through Letter M, and will work on that in future weeks.

After the break we split of into sectionals to work on the fugue (bar 173) in Movement III Herr, lehre doch mich. Some good work here, looking through all of the entries and ‘note-bashing’ through it. A huge thank you, as always, to Rowena for taking the T/B sectionals. We broke down little sections to make them easier to learn, such as bar 194 in the Soprano part (“Seelen sind” as a small section, then “in Gottes Hand” as the next, then slap them together) – a good way to practice difficult sections is note by note, bit by bit, and the putting them together. We finished by singing page 43 altogether, feeling the cadence and sense of accomplishment as we get to the end of the hard fugue.

Now we’ve seen all the notes in the fugue in the rehearsals, it’s up to you to learn them more confidently at home, so we can put it all together in a few weeks time.

What we will do on Wednesday 1st February

First rehearsal of February! We’ll be starting with Movement V Ihr habt nun, then sing through Movement VII Selig sind die Toten, and after the break look at Movement VI Denn wir haben from the opening until bar 208. Loads to cover here, so please, at the very least, have a listen to these incredible movements.

Marked Scores

The complete Marked Score is now below. I’ve been staggering it to give you time to focus on getting individual movements marked, but now we have come to the final three. Everything is below, so do go through and put the new markings in, as well as any you may have missed before.
(Due to the size of the original file I’ve had to compress it. If anything is unclear, do email me and I’ll send you a link to the large 145MB original version!)

Recommended Recordings

There are many fabulous recordings of this piece, including this one by the late great Bernard Haitink.

However, we’re doing an incredible version for chamber orchestra, with our friends from the Adderbury Ensemble. In this chamber arrangement, the arranger (Joachim Linckelmann) keeps all of the wonderful colours and atmospheres of the original orchestration, but reduces the orchestra to a manageable size. This is my recommended recording, and you can listen HERE.

Learning Resources

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there to assist you in your learning – please take the time to listen to the learning tracks, and to digest this piece properly; it’s tricky, and you’ll need to be on it.

Pronunciation Guide
We’ll be doing lots of work on the German pronunciation, and will be getting some coaching through the rehearsals too. However, you can make a good head-start on it by listening to this Pronunciation Guide.

Chord Perfect
These learning tracks are great as they are real singers amplified for the respective voice parts! It may help you to have real singers leading your learning, and it’s free! Just be aware that the ‘wobble’ on each voice can be quite pronounced (great for Brahms, but can lead to slightly flat singing if you slow it down).
Bass 1
Bass 2

John Fletcher Music
Another great aid in learning, particularly as you can isolate your part or have all parts together. The sound is clear and easy to pick up, but it doesn’t do text. Check it out here.

The most flexible option here as you can speed it up/slow it down, get certain voices to become more prominent, and it has a click track to help you keep in time. However, it’s the most rudimentary sound of the lot, so try not to sound too ‘computer-like’. Have a look.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you find these don’t help then feel free to do your own digging. The most important thing is that you engage with this, and put the time in at home to learn it. We all saw the difference it made over 3 days for the Christmas concert... imagine how incredible you’ll sound if you start now!

BBC Singers Performing Brahms

A huge thank you to Elizabeth for sharing this with me – the BBC Singers (excellent choir!) are performing the two-piano version of the Brahms Requiem on Friday 10th February at St Martin in the Fields. If you’d like to go along to pick up tips and hear it live, or just want an excuse to go down to London, you can find out more HERE.

Swindon Choral Society – Messiah

I’ve been asked to share with you all that the Swindon Choral Society are running a Come-and-Sing Workshop on Handel’s Messiah, led by Brian Kay, on Saturday 25th February. You can find out more HERE.

This Week’s listening

Another fugue this week, inspired by the work we did on the 3rd movement of the Brahms; this time one of my all-time favourites. Bach is famous for many fugues, often paired with toccatas or preludes, but this one is a little standalone gem – Fugue in G minor, BWV 578, also known as the “The Little Fugue“. Here’s the version I grew up with, for brass quintet, played here by the Canadian Brass... listen HERE.

See you on Wednesday 1st.
– Ben