Review by Judith Caldwell
Last night the Bach Elgar Choir offered an evening of choral works from two very different centuries. The first half of the concert was Italian Renaissance music from the 16th century and the second half was a 20th century Requiem of Maurice Durufle. Initially the choir were in the choir stalls and were accompanied by a brass sextet ensemble and the organ as they sang a Monteverdi piece in six parts. It was a lovely piece but the acoustics were not good and the echoes blurred the sound.
Fortunately this was the only piece they sang from the stalls, for the remainder of the evening they moved around to give us a chance to hear how the music would sound in various locations.
The next piece by Giovanni Gabrieli would have been performed in St Mark’s in Venice – a huge space – so we heard that in the round with choir members in front and beside us; then on to St Peter’s square in Rome for a Palestrina so the choirs were all around us – front, back and sides and the brass was right in front of us. The acoustics for that one were brilliant and by now the six part harmony was familiar so the next offering was in 10 part harmony with a choir in front of us and another behind. It was Laudate dominum by Andrea Gabrieli and was truly lovely.
These were all introduced and explained by choirmaster Alexander Cann and he told us the last piece, ‘Gloria’ again by Giovanni Gabrieli in 12 parts, set the stage for modern choral works & showed the beginnings of orchestration. Lovely music plus a history of music lesson too. After intermission a few centuries were skipped and the audience heard the 12 part harmony of Durufle’s Requiem. This was commissioned by the Vichy regime during World War II but the regime collapsed before it was completed so Durufle dedicated it to all those who had suffered in the war. The music is tonal and varied, with a swelling Introit, a beautiful Kyrie, a dark and foreboding Offertory, a brief Sanctus and an absolutely ‘knock your socks off’ Pie Jesu brilliantly sung by countertenor Richard Cunningham accompanied by Laura Jones on cello. The remaining three parts were calmer with the Lux aerterna and Libera Me intertwined. The final Paradisum very quiet and fading out at the end. This was a very modern piece of music flawlessly sung by a very accomplished choir.
The next Bach Elgar concert is a Sing-along Messiah on December 13th