Zug, 21.03.2023

Audite Nova Choir convinces in the Theatre Casino

Under the motto "Jolidulidu", the Audite Nova choir presented a programme on the border between Swiss folk music and jazz on Saturday and Sunday. The audience thereby experienced a worthy farewell concert under the direction of choirmaster Johannes Meister.

Johannes Meister had led the Audite Nova Zug (CANZ) choir since 1999, and is only the second conductor after the unforgotten choir founder Paul Kälin, who conducted the choir over the previous 28 years. Although practically no one from the founding generation is still actively involved, many of the qualities built up at that time have been preserved and further developed over the decades.

After long and intensive rehearsals, the approximately 80 participants in the Casino Theatre once again showed a confident mastery of a score that was sometimes very demanding.

Despite numerous exposed passages, especially in soprano, the intonation remained impeccable until the end, and was combined with a concise pronunciation. Only thanks to intensive vocal training was it possible to still produce a relaxed piano for the closing chords.

Swiss national languages instead of English
The focal point of the programme was the "Jolidulidu" by the Swiss composer Stephan Hodel, who was born in 1973, and who was also present at the concert on Sunday. In twelve movements - some merging into each other, others clearly separated - his composition sought a synthesis between traditional Swiss folk music and stylistic elements from modern entertainment in about 45 minutes of playing time.

A pleasing aspect was that the whole programme remained within the range of the Swiss national languages and refrained from any Americanisation. With a catchy structure, the harmonic mood often moved within the tonal range, but suddenly became disassociated - for example, through the accumulation of second intervals in the fifth movement - or allowed the singing to slide abruptly into a speaking chorus.

The singers wore T-shirts with a cow motif
The intonation was impeccable  
The auditorium of the Casino Theatre was well filled         Photos: Maria Schmid

Six stylistically confident and technically skilled soloists - Marcel Lüscher, Roger Konrad, Markus Muff, Marc Jaussi, Doris Bertschinger and Jonas Elmiger - formed the accompanying ensemble, alternating on various wind instruments, accordion and percussion. They performed both independent interludes and an accompanying function for the choir in the main work, Jolidulidu.

The Büchel and the Alphorn, which are natural-tone instruments, were used extensively in several sizes, which almost automatically led the harmonic structure back to the basic C tuning. The distribution of the accompanying ensemble through the hall for the 9th movement proved to be suboptimal, however; depending on where they were seated, the audience had a very different listening experience.

Mani Matter also composed
Unaccompanied throughout the first part of the concert, the choir performed the movements of the first half with partly original and partly arranged compositions by various Swiss composers: Martin Völlinger (born in 1977), Joseph Bovet (1879-1951), Pierre Kälin (1913-1995) and Mani Matter (1936-1972).

In the arrangements, the stylistically confident interpretation always made the basic melody of well-known folk songs clearly recognisable, even when they were distributed in short succession among the various registers. Beyond that, however, expansions in range and dynamics broke through the original simplicity.

The audience was enthusiastic
Audite Nova has a long tradition of performing everything from demanding a-cappella music to large oratorios with full orchestral accompaniment. With the two "Jolidulidu" performances in the Zug Casino, they somehow put themselves in between. But the audience obviously liked it. The standing ovation at the end was obliged with the second movement of the Hodel composition as an encore.

The choir now faces another challenging task of bringing in a new choirmaster who will continue the decades of work by Johannes Meister and Paul Kälin.