May 2015: Fauré and Stravinsky

Exeter Festival Chorus and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Saturday 9 May 2015

Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612) - 3 Canzona - The concert opened with these three stunning pieces for brass ensemble, written for St Marks Venice, with brilliant counterpoint, dramatic cross rhythms and rich sound. The space in the cathedral was used to advantage with the ensembles being placed on stage and in both side aisles. The use of modern rather than period instruments gave a richness of sound which Gabrieli could only have dreamed of!

Igor Stravinsky - Symphony of Psalms (1930) - This work is not a choral work with orchestra, but an orchestral symphony with the added instrument of a choir. The orchestra is unusual in having no violins. This performance achieved an excellent balance, with the choir, as other instrumental groups, sometimes coming to the fore, and at others becoming part of the blend. The performance was clear, exciting and well received by the audience.

Gabriel Fauré - Requiem - The Exeter Festival Chorus sang this work from memory, and their increased focus on the conductor resulted in some of the most precise and clear choral singing I have ever heard. The orchestra with its full complement of lower strings augmented by the 32’ stop on the organ gave a solid yet unobtrusive foundation for the singing. The baritone soloist (James Rutherford) balanced well with the choir, and his voice was suited to the cathedral acoustic. Sadly the performance was marred by the soprano soloist (Hye-Youn Lee) in the Pie Jesu. Her heavy, almost harsh, operatic style with extreme vibrato and indistinct diction was inappropriate for the prayerful oasis of calm in this dramatic and moving work.
Overall, from the chorus – excellent singing, and from the BSO the excellent standard of performance we have come to expect. A very enjoyable evening.

Colin Ashby