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18th Century Classics: Concert Review

Thames Philharmonic Choir and Thames Festival Orchestra

(conductor: John Bate),

Saturday 10th June in All Saint’s Parish Church, Kingston

In a concert structured – as declared in the programme – ‘neatly [to] reflect the two halves of eighteenth-century music’, works by Bach and Handel, Mozart and Haydn occupied first and second halves respectively. This evening the contrast between music of the Baroque and Classical eras could hardly have been more stark – not only with respect to the styles represented in the chosen works, but also in their musical rendition.

The forces of choir and orchestra were well balanced to do justice to the intricate counterpoint of Bach’s Mass in G minor – a difficult work for the choir, which has to deal with florid melodic lines, some in the highest register for sopranos and tenors. In the Gloria, which consists of six separate movements, we heard three of the evening’s young soloists. Timothy Edlin’s bass voice rendered smoothly the often angular melodic lines of the Gratias.

Agimus Tibi, Ida Ränzlöv (mezzo-soprano) ably presented the rather more florid Domine Fili Unigenite, and Thomas Erlank (tenor) coordinated well with the lovely oboe obbligato line played by Jeremy Polmear.

Handel’s Concerto Grosso in G, first performed in 1739, uses a trio composed of two violins and cello (played by orchestra leader Alison Kelly, Yu Yasuraoka and Pal Banda) as the concertino which works both separately from and together with the rest of the string orchestra. In the Kingston Parish Church of today, which has successfully been divided into small social area and larger worship (or concert) area, the performers are seated close to the

audience - and it was clear that listeners were engaging fully with this interpretation which offered some effective contrasts in dynamic levels, especially in the final movement.

The work which followed the interval was Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ Mass. The change of style was evident from the opening chords for choir and orchestra, performed with an intensity and excitement which was maintained throughout the work. Both choir and orchestra produced a very full sound but that of the choir was particularly noticeable, and its ability to sustain long notes where appropriate created a truly dramatic effect, as did the contrast between forte and tender piano in the Crucifixus section of the Credo. Here the soloists heard in the first half of the programme were joined by soprano Julieth Lozano, whose lyrical voice – particularly in the Agnus Dei, was entirely appropriate for Mozart’s writing.

The concert ended with Haydn’s Te Deum (c. 1800). It is said that, towards the end of his long life, Haydn (born in 1732) was regarded as old-fashioned by his contemporaries. This work is, however, full of drama and creativity, which conductor John Bate clearly understood.

Mention must be made of the skilful contribution of Stephen Disley, who played organ continuo throughout. Though using the large Parish Church instrument built in the 1980s, greatly different from the chamber instruments usually employed for Baroque and Classical music and separated from the rest of the performers, his musical sensitivity, particularly when accompanying soloists in the Bach, was remarkable.

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