Mozart Requiem by Candlelight @ St Paul’s Cathedral

Mozart’s final masterpiece is one of my all-time favourite classical works, and it sounds even better when framed by the gothic splendour of St Paul’s Cathedral.

It’s been over a decade since I last stepped inside St Paul’s Cathedral in the Melbourne CBD, and a couple of years since the last Candlelight concert, a part of the series of live classical music events illuminated by OHS-friendly candlelight. I really looked forward to this concert, but maybe less so to dragging myself outside on a miserable, grey, rainy Saturday afternoon. We’re approaching a time of the year when I’m going to feel more and more like a grumpy hibernating bear in the evenings.

In hindsight I regretted not paying more for the tickets that would seat us a bit closer to the performers; the pews filled very quickly and the only rows available were the additional chairs at the very back. It didn’t make any difference to the sound and you could still enjoy the heavenly performances that were made even more special by the magnificent interior, the high arches and the gorgeous stained glass windows.

The concert opened with Symphony No. 25, written by Mozart at the grand old age of seventeen. They really didn’t go for distinctive and memorable names for the symphonies in the 18th century! I realised as it went on that I actually wasn’t familiar with all of the movements, but out of all the classical composers, Mozart’s previously unfamiliar music is probably the easiest to listen to. His melodies sound as if they’ve already always existed somewhere in the musical ether, and Mozart just happened to pluck them out and write them down.

Symphony No. 25 was the perfect light entrĂ©e before the dark drama of the Requiem, which was unfinished at the time of Mozart’s death, and claimed to have been commissioned by an enigmatic messenger who never revealed who it was meant for. Even without these mystique-enhancing details, Requiem is still an overwhelmingly powerful and emotional experience, beautifully brought to life by the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra. The only time the spell was somewhat broken was when the orchestra had to pause before beginning the next piece, as the outside world rudely intruded into our concert bubble with a howling ambulance/police driving down the street.

Despite the dismal weather, it was nice to make an event of a Saturday night, and spend some time admiring the lights of the city and Federation Square after the concert, from the comfort of an excellent Middle Eastern restaurant.

P.S. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to disentangle Dies Irae from the X-Men franchise, which used it so memorably during Nightcrawler’s attack on the White House in X2. For a time, it was one of the coolest action scenes in a superhero movie, and though some classical purists may cringe, the choice of music really was inspired.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s