April 2009: Jenkins and Poulenc

Jenkins: Stabat Mater
Poulenc: Gloria

Exeter Cathedral, Thursday 2 April 2009, 7.30pm

In our Easter concert, we give the first Exeter performance of Karl Jenkins' new work, Stabat Mater. The work is described as a 'universal depiction of grief', stretching beyond the purely Western European tradition, though based around the 13th century Latin text, recording the sorrow of Mary as she stands at the foot of the Cross. The sombre mood of this work is contrasted with the jubilant exultation of Poulenc's wonderful Gloria.

Source: Margaret Smith

Exeter Festival Chorus conducted by Nigel Perrin with Richard Studt and The Sinfonietta

Poulenc's Gloria remains one of his most popular compositions and in the hands of the Exeter Festival Chorus conducted by Nigel Perrin, with Richard Studt leading The Sinfonietta, we could hear why this is so.

Soloist Lesley-Jane Rogers has a powerful soprano voice with a wide range which is wonderfully soft on the top notes and combined with the Chorus to give a strong and entrancing performance of this unusual work.

Poulenc follows his own, pioneering route and this soloist, choir and orchestra kept pace with some of his more quirky ideas, giving a different slant on the meaning of the work. Free from too much sentiment, this lively and melodic composition holds our interest from the opening motif to the hushed Amen.

The suffering of the Virgin Mary at her son's crucifixion has been the meditative subject of many a great work and Karl Jenkins' Stabat Mater, based on the 14th century poem, stands alongside the compositions of Poulenc, Liszt and Palestrina, based on the same theme.

The soloist for this work was Annabel Jones, who began her singing career as a chorister of Wells Cathedral Choir - and she is an absolutely outstanding mezzo-soprano.

Choir and Orchestra, augmented by more unusual instruments, such as a Middle Eastern flute called a nay, gave an unforced performance which came straight from the heart. Annabel Jones certainly touched the heartstrings with the Arabaic Incantation and again with a poignant aria, Now my life is only weeping.

This was music to transport the listener to a different time and place - the Crucifixion of Christ, and all that followed.