Crouch End Festival Chorus review at Queen Elizabeth Hall

PUBLISHED: 15:46 07 October 2019

Jess Dandy (contralto) and Sarah Fox (soprano) take a bow after the latest concert by the Crouch End Festival Chorus at Queen Elizabeth Hall picture: David Winskill

Jess Dandy (contralto) and Sarah Fox (soprano) take a bow after the latest concert by the Crouch End Festival Chorus at Queen Elizabeth Hall picture: David Winskill

Archant

Under the baton of conductor David Temple the chorus and a full orchestra did justice to Beethoven's Missa Solemnis

In advance of Saturday's concert I had a call from a pal who sings with the Chorus. "Get along. It's going to be big."

He was right in so many ways: a big chorus, a full size orchestra supported by some of the biggest name soloists in one of London's best venues.

And Crouch End Festival Chorus delivered ... big time!

Before the main event, they sang the winning piece from a competition to put music to the words Beethoven wrote at the front of the manuscript of the Missa Solemnis "From the heart - may it return to the heart."

The winner, Ian Lawson, did a fine job of capturing the sentiment of the inscription using both the English translation and original German.

His interpretation was beautifully lyrical, plaintive and a little sad.

At its conclusion and without a pause we launched into the majesty of the mass with three of the soloists who, in turn, deliver the Kyrie Eleison (almost humble) then the more expansive Christie.

The opening to the Gloria is simply magnificent. The Chorus was made to fight for space as the London Mozart Players combined to produce a flood of exaltation that left the audience breathless with the combined pomp and bombast.

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Then, relative quiet until the four soloists combined for an almost operatic, impassioned Qui Tollis Peccata Mundi.

The power of the end of the Gloria felt as though conductor David Temple had unleashed an untameable animal; at the end (of what was effectively only the second movement) he looked stunned as he groped for his water bottle.

The Credo is Beethoven's personal assertion of Christian tenets.

The passion created by the combination of choir and soloists in the four lines that deal with the incarnation of Christ, his birth, crucifixion and resurrection was primal in its intensity. There was a moment of stillness before the exultant shout of Et resurrexit!

By now the Chorus was behaving as though choreographed - breathing synced, glancing up for prompts from Temple and moving as one.

After the stuttered Sanctus (which included some stunning virtuoso violin from orchestra leader Simon Blendis), the short Agnus Dei almost defies description.

A glorious melding of harmonies, altered time signatures and differing styles which became (as the programme said) "a plea for peace".

Throughout the work there are references to Beethoven's symphonic works and, in the beautiful arias for soloists, perhaps hints of the operas he should have written.

An unforgettable experience: these were perhaps the finest soloists that CEFC have worked with. The orchestra was on fire and the Chorus inspired.

5/5

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