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A home-coming

PHILIP LANCASTER was at Gloucester
for the UK's 274th Three Choirs Festival


<< Concluded from Sunday

Wednesday saw a performance of one of the traditional Three Choirs favourites by an adoptive Englishman, Handel's Messiah. The chorus were joined by the Gloucester Cathedral choristers, all once more under the direction of David Briggs, and provided with a superb line up of soloists: Nicki Kennedy, Robin Blaze (once more hypnotising all), James Gilchrist and Michael George. This was certainly a performance that will go down in the annals of the festival -- although not necessarily for purely musical reasons: during the first half of the concert Michael George proved a little unsteady and couldn't continue after the interval, having lost his voice. The hero of the moment was the Festival Secretary, Bill Armiger -- a Lay-clerk in the Cathedral Choir, who admirably stepped into the breach. The trumpet shall indeed sound.

Despite its aiming towards young people one cannot fail to be bowled over by Britten's technical mastery as shown in his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra that opened Thursday's concert -- an event which had been sold out for weeks. The other two works in the programme were Gerald Finzi's Cello Concerto and William Walton's Belshazzar's Feast.

Raphael Wallfisch has single-handedly championed the Finzi concerto and rightly brought it to the public's attention, through his 1988 recording with Vernon Handley (recently reissued with the Leighton Cello Concerto), to this Finzi centenary year, during which he has given numerous performances across the country. On the Wednesday of the festival Wallfisch had given a masterclass on the concerto, working with three young cellists, each taking a movement, and spending an hour with each, heightening the performers' interpretation and the audience's insight into the concerto. Prior to the concert, to mark Wallfisch's commitment to the work, the Finzi Friends presented him with a centenary goblet as a token of thanks. Raphael Wallfisch went on to give another fresh-faced performance which was very well received.

The dark-toned Michael George was still out of action, so the baritone solo part in the performance of Belshazzar's Feast was taken by Stephen Roberts, drafted in at short notice. A little ill-focused in sound for some, Roberts gave the solo role a great dramatic touch, matching a great vigour from the Philharmonia and some strong singing from the chorus.

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Copyright © 25 September 2001 Philip Lancaster, Chosen Arts, Bristol, UK





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