Plymouth Philharmonic Choir at the Guildhall (review)

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Elgar’s The Music Makers is perhaps less immediately appealing on first hearing than some similar works in the repertoire, but Plymouth Philharmonic Choir’s well-disciplined performance certainly did the composer proud.

Apart from some splendid unaccompanied choral singing, the undoubted highlight was the gloriously rich and rounded tone of mezzo-soprano soloist Alison Kettlewell.

Poulenc’s somewhat quirkier Gloria, on the other hand, makes a very direct impression, so typical of the composer’s eclectic writing where passages of sincere emotion are quickly and often rudely interrupted by those of almost music-hall quality.

Here again the choir was on top form, with soprano Catherine Hamilton providing the icing on the cake in some very taxing solo moments.

If the concert had finished here, there would have been few complaints as both singers and players had given their absolute all.

But the decision to end with Parry’s much-loved Blest Pair of Sirens proved a masterstroke.

Here, conductor Christopher Fletcher, with the consummate skill of a racehorse jockey, held his resources back until the final glorious climax, arguably the best part of the whole evening.

The fine orchestra, led by Mary Eade, deserves a special a mention, too, for their telling contribution, and especially in maintaining an impressively taut ensemble overall.


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