Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Truly scrumptious: the choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor in music for Advent

Choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor
Choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor
Music for Advent; Choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor, James Vivian, Luke Bond; Cadogan Hall Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 4 December 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An eclectic programme for Advent as part of Choral at Cadogan

On Monday December 4 in the Neo-Byzantine surroundings of Cadogan Hall the choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor under the direction of James Vivian with organist Luke Bond performed a programme of all things Advent. The eclectic choice of repertoire spanned more than 1000 years of music from the triumphant acclamation of Laudes Regiae to Arvo Pärt’s vibrant tribute to the Virgin Mary Bogoróditse Djévo

The choir’s largely a cappella programme kicked off with a somewhat underpowered Laudes Regiae. Placing the choir off-stage rendered this responsorial acclamation a little flat. I can imagine this working wonderfully in a church, but in the dry acoustic of the Cadogan Hall the impact was lost. Thankfully when the choir did emerge, they wasted no time in showing us what they were made of in Byrd’s Rorate caeli with a dulcet light and refined touch. But there were times in the first half when it all felt a little too decorous. Aided by some programming choices, I felt parked in a stylistic cul-de-sac and ached for a little more musical variety. Weelkes, that notoriously drunkard blasphemer, for example, wrote a simple but passionate anthem in Rejoice in the Lord that to my mind would have benefitted from a bit more oomph.

If the first half was stylistically a little samey, not so the second. The smorgasbord of delights after the interval finally heralded a celebration of Advent. From Brahms’ lush Es ist das Heil through Up, awake and away and Goldschmidt’s A tender shoot to Verdi’s delicious Ave Maria and Pärt’s emotionally charged Church Slavonic Bogoróditse Djévo all classily done.

Above all the watchword for this concert was taste, it reeked of it so much it hurt. Now, I’m probably a contrarian but, for me, the choir’s restraint mitigated against the acclamations and rejoicing evinced in some of the music. That said I’m a sucker for aestheticism and their music making was irresistible. The luxuriant unified sound, the oh so elegant phrasing, the sensitive use of dynamics were all exquisite. Only once or twice toward the end, when voices began to tire, was there even a hint of anything other than impeccable tuning. Truly scrumptious.

Pity then, that their disciplined reserve having spread to the audience, encouraged us to reverence rather than approbation. Very un-British, I know, but I wanted to cheer them to the rafters.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

Laudes Regiae – Anon
Rorate Caeli – Byrd
Rorate Caeli – Plainsong
Fantasia in C – Byrd
Ne irascaris – Byrd
In nominee à 4 – Byrd
Prepare ye theway of the Lord – Wise
Rejoice in the Lord – Weelkes
This is the record of John – Gibbons
Salus aeterna – Plainsong
Es ist das heil uns kommen her – Brahms
Es ist das heil uns kommen her – Schein
Es ist ein Ros – Brahms
Es ist ein Ros – Praetorius
Up, awake and away – arr. Ledger
Vom Himmel hoch BWV 700 – J.S.Bach
A tender shoot – Goldschmidt
How beautiful upon the mountains – Stainer
I sing of a maiden – Berkeley
Vom Himmel hoch BWV 701 – J.S.Bach
Ave Maria – Verdi
Bogoróditse Djévo - Pärt

Elsewhere on this blog:
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  • Profoundly beautiful: Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera  (★★★★) - opera review
  • Last Man Standing: Cheryl Frances-Hoad premiere at the Barbican  (★★★★) - concert review
  • One crazy day: Jonathan Dove on his new opera Marx in London which premieres at Theater Bonn  - interview
  • Landscapes of the mind: Anna Þorvaldsdóttir's Aequa (★★★½) - CD review
  • Antonio Caldara - cantatas for bass and continuo (★★★½) - Cd review
  • Viol music: RCM International Festival of Viols - concert review
  • Naturalism and realism: Puccini's La Boheme with Natalya Romaniw and Jonathan Tetelman (★★★★) - opera review
  • A 20th century monument: Hindemith's five brass sonatas  (★★★★) - CD review
  • Old Bones: Nico Muhly, Iestyn Davies and the Aurora Orchestra at Kings Place (★★★½) - concert review
  • Storytelling in music: Kevin Puts and his opera Silent Night - interview
  • Puccini premiere:  Opera Rara gives the original version of Le Willis a rare outing (★★★★) -  Opera review
  • Long time ago: Samling showcase at the Wigmore Hall (★★★★) - concert review
  • A series of concentric circles: Aaron Holloway-Nahum and the Riot Ensemble  - interview
  •  Home

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