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Our Performance : October 1974

Since the Commemoration Festival in Westminister Abbey in 1784, it has become the fashion to perform the Messiah with huge forces. Only in recent years has it been realized that performances in which the overweighting of the orchestra by the chorus completely obscures the texture, in which the distinctive timbre of high trumpets, woodwind and strings is lost, and the quality and function of the harpsichord are ignored, are completely alien to Handel's conception. At the first performance in Neale's Music Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin, on the 13th April 1742, the choir consisted of sixteen men and sixteen boys and in subsequent performances of even fewer singers.

True, in this country there have been a few attempts at "authenticity", but to my knowledge they were limited to adding ornamentations while the singers of the chorus still numbered over a hundred.

A further point of interest is the relatively strong violin section in Handel's time, numbering 12 to 14 players. If we would use that many strings now, they would completely overpower the choir. After some research, I found out that the bows of the Baroque string instruments were not only shorter but also lighter, and the tension of the hairs much less, besides which they had only about 80 hairs compared to the 150 to 200 of the modern bow, which gave the Baroque instrument much less volume.

Some tempos and dynamics also need reconsiderarion. Take, for example, the aria "But who may abide the day of his coming". This is usually taken at a fairly lively tempo with the result that it loses the contrast between "the guilty man standing defenceless upon the earth" and "the rushing flickering flames of the refiner's fire". The chorus "Glory to God in the highest" is very often sung loud, but Handel indicated in the trumpet parts "Da lontano un poco pian" (From far away and little softly).

Unfortunately there is no space here to go into further detail. I hope that our listeners, who are perhaps more aquainted with larger performances or overwelmingly high-powered recordings, will enjoy this performance in its original simplicity.

Bruno Peyer

 Saturday 19th Oct 1974 at 8 p.m
Muckleneuk Ridge

Bruno Peyer

Anneen Leeuwner (Soprano), 
Stella Breder (Alto), 
Sjoerd Beute (Tenor) 
Bruce Martin (Bass)
Collegium Musicum

Jaap Godschalk
 This concert is given in collaboration with the Department of National Education, Northern Transvaal Regional Office for the Advancement of Culture. We wish to express our gratitude towards our sponsor members for their co-operation.


  1. Overture (orchestra)
  2. Comfort ye (tenor)
  3. Every valley (tenor)
  4. And the glory of the Lord (choir)
  5. Thus saith the Lord (bass)
  6. But who may abide (contralto)
  7. And he shall purify (choir)
  8. Behold a virgin shall conceive (contralto)
  9. O thou that tellest (contralto and choir)
  10. For behold, darkness (bass)
  11. The people that walked (bass)
  12. For unto us a child is born(choir)
  13. Pifa"Pastoral Symphony"(orchestra)
  14. There were shepherds, etc. (soprano)
    And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them
  15. And the angel said unto them (soprano)
  16. And suddenly there was with the angel(soprano)
  17. Glory to God (choir)
  18. Rejoice greatly (soprano)
  19. Then shall the eyes (alto)
  20. He shall feed his flock (alto & soprano)
    Come unto him, all ye that labour
  21. His yoke is easy, and his burthen is light(choir)


  1. Behold the Lamb of God (choir)
  2. He was despised (alto)
  3. Surely (choir)
  4. And with his stripes we are healed (choir)
  5. All we like sheep have gone astray (choir)
  6. All they that see him laugh him to scorn (tenor)
  7. He trusted in God (choir)
  8. Thy rebuke hath broken his heart (tenor)
  9. Behold, and see if there be any sorrow (tenor)
  10. He was cut off out of the land of the living (tenor)
  11. But thou didst not leave his soul in hell(tenor)
  12. Lift up your heads (choir)
  13. Unto which of the angels said he at any time (tenor)
  14. Let all the angels of God worship him (choir)
  15. Thou art gone up high (bass)
  16. The Lord gave the word (choir)


PART 2 (Continued)

  1. How beautiful are the feet (soprano)
  2. Their sound is gone out (choir)
  3. Why do the nations (bass)
  4. Let us break their bonds asunder (choir)
  5. He that dwelleth in heaven (tenor)
  6. Thou shalt break them (tenor)
  7. Hallelujah(choir)


  1. I know that my Redeemer liveth (soprano)
  2. Since by man (choir)
  3. Behold I tell you a mystery (bass)
  4. The trumpet shall sound (bass)
  5. Then shall he brought to pass(contralto)
  6. O death, where is thy sting? (contralto, tenor)
  7. But thanks he to God(choir)
  8. If God be for us? (soprano)
  9. Worthy is the Lamb (choir)
    AMEN (choir)


Dinsdag 22 November 1974

Maak van Messias 'n instelling

Die hardnekkigheid waarmee 'n oogongesteldheid my Saterdagaand daarvan weerhou het om 'n uitvoering van die Messias deur die Bach-koor van Pretoria onder leiding van Bruno Peyer by te woon, het by my, behalwe die frustrasie en teleurstelling daarvan, weer eens die vraag pertinent laat opduik waarom ons dan nie hier in Pretoria, met ons groot aantal koorsangers en koorsangliefhebbers, ook ons tradisionale, jaarlikse Messiasuitvoering kan hê nie.


Meer as enige ander oratorium of koorwerk, het die Messias veelvoudige besit geword. Dit is dié werk wat aan Handel ewigdurende roem verskaf het in wat deur die eeue sedert die middel-agtiende eeu kon geld as seker een van

die mees spontaan-geïnspireerde meesterwerke van sy genre - of van enige ander genre.

HOOFSTAD se amptelike musiekresensent, Hennie Joubert, kon weens 'n ongesteldheid nie Saterdagaand Die Messias bywoon nie. Hier gee hy 'n algemene beskouing oor dié werk.

Dit het ook die besit geword van Protestant sowel as Katoliek, van die Weste sowel as die Ooste, die Noorde sowel as die Suide. Dit het die geliefde besit geword van die koorkonsertganger end die oratorium-koorsanger.

Daar is altyd 'n feestelikheid en afwagting aanwesig by 'n uitvoering van die Messias wanneer uitgevoer in 'n konsertsaal met 'n voortreflike orkes en gevierde soliste - 'n werklike konsertaanbieding.


Maar dit het ook die besit geword van die gelowige, en vir hulle hoort die Messias tuis in 'n kerkgebou, waar die Bron van inspirasie vir hierdie werk alomteenwoordig is. Vir my persoonlik hoort hierdie musiek daar.

Mnr. Bruno Peyer verdien die aanmoediging en waarderende onderskraging van die Pretoriase publiek om die Messias 'n gereelde instelling te maak, hetsy tydens Paastyd of nader aan Kersfees.

- Hennie Joubert.



Thuesday 22 November 1974

'Messiah' misread - and defused
by Peter Southey

G.F. Handel - Messiah
Bach Choir Pretoria
Bruno Peyer
Unisa Auditorium

THE Bach Choir sang Handel's Messiah as if the story of Christ were altogether unremarkable.

Their tone and balance were good, and their soft singing was lovely, but in trying to avoid the "oppressive weightiness" which they condemn in performances of this work by larger choirs, they avoided feeling altogether.

They sang too smoothly, too legato. There was so little stressing in"And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,"for example, that they could have been singing about the comforting glories of some new baby-care product.

They confused quiet singing and light singing. Sung lightly,"For unto us a child is born"can still be charged with excitement. Sung their way it was limp, and though they sang those triumphant words"Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God,"quite loudly, they sang them with no animation, no punch.

Only their"Since by man came death"made any impression on me. For the rest, though they did little to offend, they did little to move one either.

In fact, if it were not for the two male soloists, Sjoerd Beute and Bruce Martin, the evening would not survive a day in one's memory.

Sjoerd Beute's interpretation was intelligent and musical, his technique secure and effortless, and he has presence.

Bruce Martinis at least as accomplished an oratorio singer.

The rich power of his marvellous voice gave the evening its one really thrilling spell in"The trumpet shall sound"; and he had a worthy partner in the trumpet soloist.

Anneen Leeuwner, the soprano, was at her best in quieter passages in her middle and lower registers; her"Come unto him"was very beautiful. But when she turned up the volume her vibrato became too pronounced and on the higher notes was a little painful.

Stella Beder, contralto could be heard easily against the harpsichord, but not against the orchestra. Her performance was quite pleasing, but her tone was thick, as if the back of her tongue were bottling the sound in her throat.

The Bach Choir has ability and theCollegium Musicum Orchestrais already good. With a greater sense of the enormity of the story they are telling they could become worthy of telling it.


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