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Equally idiomatic were two choral works by Kenneth Leighton, which highlighted the virtuosity and precision of intonation and articulation of the choir. God's Grandeur, composed in 1957, conveyed its lithe linear polyphony and smooth textures with sonorous depth and evocative, sometimes dark harmonies. The Easter Sequence (1969) in five movements is far brighter and accessible, its five movements leading from a spirited imitative 'Introit' through a series of expressive lyrical movements, to a retrieval of the initial jubilant mood in the final propulsive 'Sortie', where the melody based on thirds, projected freshly by the boy treble soloists, is interspersed by lively interactions between trumpet and choir. Especially potent were the organ solos framing the introspective, poetic 'Communion'. Edward Higginbottom's superbly reviving interpretation underlined the extent to which Leighton's prolific oeuvre, notably for organ and choir as well as piano, chamber and orchestral forces, is still far too unfamiliar and deserving of far greater exposure.

After the choir's telling accounts of Bruckner's motets Ave Maria and Christus factus est, and the beautiful miniature O salutaris hostia by Rossini, dating from his later years, the concert concluded with the world première of the ten-movement Cantatina : 22 July 1832, attributed to Rossini. This piece d'occasion is said to have been intended for a wedding that never took place and features four soloists and choir in a series of delightful solos, ensembles and choruses. Outstanding vocally was the tenor Toby Spence who, as Apollo, brought passion and beauty of tone to his solo aria 'Offrite alla bella' and enhanced several trios with the worthy ensemble of soprano Joanne Lunn as Amor Coniugale and mezzo-soprano Julianne de Villiers as Euterpe, especially flowing in their richly textured trio Al sorriso del'Aprile.

Edward Higginbottom
Edward Higginbottom

Edward Higginbottom conducted with verve, the buoyant performance underpinned by Alberto Portugheis's responsive and ebullient pianism. Whether or not this charming work is indeed by Rossini -- the debate over the authenticity of its rediscovered 1979 manuscript continues -- the nonetheless engaging music radiates his genius through and through, its simple melodic charm affirming the hand of a master.

Copyright © 15 May 2003 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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