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Theresa Mass


Quatre motets


Somerset Chamber Choir

London Festival Orchestra

Elizabeth Watts

Leigh Woolf

Andrew Kennedy

Christopher Maltman

Rupert Gough

Graham Caldbeck









Click here to view the concert programme


One of the county's finest choirs, The Somerset Chamber Choir, conductor Graham Caldbeck, produced yet another well-balanced and imaginative programme of choral music for its summer concert in Wells Cathedral last Saturday (30 July). Haydn's Theresienmesse with its sublime late Classical eloquence, its deep sincerity, its scale - lasting some 50 minutes and involving soloists, chorus and orchestra - was wonderfully counterbalanced by the brevity, intensity of thought and economy of means that Duruflés Quatre Motets Opus 10 provided. Finally, the forces of soloists, chorus and small orchestra were joined by the organ (played by Rupert Gough) for a moving performance of Duruflés 1947 Requiem, a work much likened to Gabriel Faurés and one that within itself has balance of structure, much contrast yet great cohesion.


Bringing together disparate forces - the London Festival Orchestra, the soloists Elizabeth Watts (soprano, Leigh Woolf (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Kennedy (tenor), Christopher Maltman (baritone) and a chorus that meets infrequently - requires a conductor with musical authority and clear direction. In Graham Caldbeck the musicians in this concert could have every confidence. There were moments when this writer would have welcomed more dynamic contrast from the chorus, particularly in the Requiem, and perhaps more risk taken at points such as rallentandi, but the conductor's intentions were never in doubt and this gave the performances great security. Graham Caldbeck also drew some sophisticated phrasing and subtle word-shading from the chorus in the Theresienmesse demonstrating that he has a choir of responsive and musical singers.


Balance between instrumental and vocal forces is always a testing challenge at moments of high drama and this proved to be so in the Requiem Sanctus where after a hair-raising approach to the climax the choral numbers seem to lose out. This was obviously never to be a problem in the unaccompanied Quatre Motets which saw the singers at their best, relaxed and enjoying themselves with a commitment and accuracy that presumably stems from their joyful respect for the conductor and a high regard for the organisation to which they belong.


The soloists were admirable with Christopher Maltman possessing a voice of real character and used with powerful effect in the Requiem while Elizabeth Watts fine clarity of sound was particularly well suited for the Haydn Mass. Indeed all four soloists were suitably inspired to sing the Et incarnatus est section of the Credo in the most moving way.


The London Festival Orchestra (Principal Conductor Ross Pople) has a deserved and established reputation. This was particularly apparent in the demands of the Haydn Mass where a wide gamut of articulation and refined phrasing is required, not unlike the demands of the late Haydn symphonies.


Cathedral acoustics are notoriously difficult to work with and this presumably was the reason for the lack of tonal impact and clarity of attack in Duruflés Requiem by the trumpets and timps. And again the resonance was presumably responsible for a loss of harp clarity.


Congratulations to all those who gave much of their time behind the scenes to the organising, promotion and presentation of this concert. The printed programme and its contents was informative, well-laid out and epitomised the general quality of the evening.


Andrew Maddocks

Saturday 30 July 2005

Wells Cathedral

Haydn & Duruflé