Monday 11 August 2008

Prom 32

An afternoon Prom, in which Messiaen's Messe de Pentecote was alternated with Manchicourt's Missa Veni Sancte Spiritus. James O'Donnell played the Messiaen, getting some amazing sounds out of the Albert Hall organ. I am not well up enough on organs to be able to begin to explain/describe how he did it. One of the movements ended on an amazing chord in which Messiaen combined what seemed to be the highest note on the organ with the lowest, the latter making itself more as a throbbing than anything else.

In complete contrast Manchicourt's mass, which was sung by the BBC Singers conducted by Andrew Carwood, was the epitome of fluent restraint. Not that Manchicourt eschewed richness, as he wrote the mass for a 6 part choir and gave us some lovely textures. He ended his life as the director of Philip II of Spain's Flemish chapel in Madrid, so Manchicourt had a body of extremely fine singers at his disposal. The BBC Singers did him justice and created a fluent performance which managed to fill the space of the Albert Hall.

Alternating the organ pieces with the mass was a superb idea. Neither the organ piece, nor the mass was designed to be heard in a single lump and this gave us the opportunity to hear both works in distributed format. More please!

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