Beyond the Storm

Yesterday, at Chelmsford Cathedral, I was privileged to attend a performance by the University of Essex Choir and the London Mozart Players.
Richard Bannan: Bass. And a fine replacement soprano whose name I did not catch.
Conductor: Richard Cooke.

Gabriel Fauré – Cantique de Jean Racine
Edward Elgar – The Snow
Igor Stravinsky – Pulcinella Suite
Felix Mendelssohn – Hear My Prayer
Gabriel Fauré – Requiem


Braving Storm Dennis, I arrived bedraggled at this wonderful cathedral only to to find myself uplifted by a new rush of inspiration: the performance of some music with which I was very familiar (the above Stravinsky suite and the Fauré requiem) and the holistic effect breathing new life into them. The Pulcinella was absolutely magnificent, taking me into areas I could never have imagined, combining a Malcolm Arnold symphony or wind ensemble with my late life apotheosis of Stravinsky, the latter composer having brought me into classical music at the age of 14 when a teacher at school played us a record of Rite of Spring in the 1960s. The Requiem here also extended beyond its familiarity into creative spasms of spirituality. The last section also had a striking Philip Glass undercurrent (one that has always been there but unrecognised) by the cathedral organ, I found.
The other pieces were fresh and comforting, particularly the Elgar that was a revelation to me. I note the words were written by Elgar’s wife Alice.
I now very much look forward to this choir’s performance of Bach’s massive Mass in B Minor in May at the Maltings.

My previous reviews of local classical music:

The Snape Gerontius

E22C4B04-B043-4053-A923-F937B25449EAAs ever, I was determined to allow a performance its full potential as pure music, rather than my attempting to give an interpretation as to what a composer may have intended as a ‘programme’ in human ‘story’, whether religious or spiritual. Spiritual, not religious, was a better word indeed, as what I have long considered to be Elgar’s greatest work — finally confirmed last night at Snape as just that. How can I assign praise more important than that to the performance of all concerned? The sinuous lamentation curve of sound that, for me, I have always discovered to a greater or lesser degree in Dream of Gerontius came to an optimum power last night in front of the Maltings wall of raw brick that has absorbed such sounds over the years. And given it back to us as a gestalt last night? A blend of more familiar Elgar, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Havergal Brian, and even some modern composers such as Per Norgard. A unique blend of cosmic Elgar.
A heartfelt review from a listener, not a musician.FA739A38-1B5D-4BA8-A8F5-52C523BF4F10

My previous reviews of local classical concerts, including the War Requiem performed by the University of Essex Choir at Snape a few years ago:

“And it is not by any concitation
Of the backward devils”
— TS Eliot (Gerontion)


A Sea Symphony…

IMG_3211Yesterday, my wife and I were lucky enough to attend a performance of A SEA SYMPHONY by Vaughan Williams and Elgar’s ENIGMA VARIATIONS at Snape Maltings.
Performers: The University of Essex Choir, Essex Sinfonia, Alice Privett (Soprano), Edward Grint (Bass), Richard Cooke (Conductor).
We were MORE than just lucky. Sitting, I claim, in the concert hall’s best acoustically situated seats, for me, these performances picked out – meticulously as well as a wall of miraculous sound – an experience of both works that I had never before encountered. Yesterday, I heard them for the first time, even having listened to them countless times in the past.
Two pieces of English music, rousing one moment, subtle the next. English, but not insular or Brexited. They were universal and healing.
I am not a technical expert on music, but this was what I really felt.
And the music, held in the singing voices,  often seemed like symbolic white birds of peace. And the pages of a score somehow became a wonderful white gull over the sea, too.

My last snap at Snape, Oh Whistle and I Shall Come to You –


Fate, Love and Legends


I was privileged to attend last night’s concert by the University of Essex Choir, conducted by Richard Cooke, featuring two pianists: Jonathan Beatty and Richard Pearce.

The programme represented a remarkable selection of work, I guess rarely performed together, and it was also a chance to see two grand pianos in unison, as well as four hands on a single piano. All the music was, to my non-technical ears, performed exquisitely. And the gestalt? A preternatural vision so badly needed for our troubled times, one that can only be provided by the power lent by such a live performance, its audience and choral backdrop of singers around the two pianists and conductor, all in synergy.

I will not try to describe each work, and having enjoyed in the past every composer featured here, these were re-awakening moments. Just run your eyes down the list below and dwell upon how you imagine each must have sounded, one after the other. And then imagined as a whole.

My previous reviews of classical music in my area HERE.