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Adrian Lucas' only appearance of the week on the concert platform was in a performance of Elgar's Apostles, filling the now almost traditional annual Elgar oratorio slot, which proved one of the best performances of the week. It was very well paced, notably in the second part, making some of the weaker moments of the second part half into place quite easily. Some excellent soloists were cast, notably the marvellous Catherine Wyn-Rogers and the firm, commanding tone of the young baritone William Clements as Jesus. Adrian Thompson felt more at home here and boldly took the ossias in the part. Michael George made a welcome return -- the wonders of vitamins and anti-biotics -- as Judas, alongside Julie Kennard and Henry Herford. A great moment was the appearance of an authentic animal-horn shofar heralding the dawn; a very rare appearance in the work, normally replaced by a horn. Certainly a memorable performance.

The festival finale was an excellently conceived programme based around the sea: Frederic Austin's Sea Venturers, probably unperformed since 1952, opened the concert -- a fine dramatic overture that would warrant a greater investigation of Austin as a composer, rather than being remembered solely as a fine baritone. Arnold Bax's sole representation in performance at the festival was found in his programmatic tone poem The Garden of Fand, the Garden of the Fand being the sea -- the work depicts a saga from Irish legend. The centre-point of the programme was a performance of Elgar's Sea Pictures. Here Catherine Wyn-Rogers was gloriously focused and motivated, and was well accompanied by the Philharmonia under Briggs: why hasn't Wyn-Rogers recorded it? I'd certainly rush to buy it.

The final work in the programme was Vaughan Williams's major Whitman-inspired journey: A Sea Symphony -- and what a work to finish with. Julie Kennard and Henry Herford were here soloists in a performance that impressed its ecstatic spirit on all; the chorus, at the end of a very heavy week, giving it their last triumphal shout, and bidding all to farther sail -- notably in their hanging a sail from a ship, the Farther, on the organ screen -- until the next meeting.

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





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