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Coupled with the orchestra was the London Symphony Chorus, wonderfully on form in both the quiet and the dramatic portions; the climax to their Praise to the Holiest chorus was shattering. The choir provided the semi-chorus to the work as well, and their fine discipline showed in the many quiet passages. Gerontius is a wonderful work to sing, but is full of tricky passages and awkward moments which the LSC negotiated with ease. This is to their credit as the rather cramped Barbican stage meant that the choir's numbers were restricted to around 120 people rather than the greater numbers that might have been expected in a bigger venue.
Fine though these choral and orchestral elements were, I suspect that most people in the audience were there to hear the soloists, particularly Ben Heppner as Gerontius and Anne Sofie von Otter as The Angel, along with Alistair Miles as The Priest/Angel of the Agony. In the event, Ben Heppner was ill and replaced by David Rendall.
It is probably unfair to comment too strongly on Rendall's performance, given that he took over the role at short notice. I did wonder whether he had quite got the part sung into his voice; in Part One particularly, his placement of quieter high notes seemed a little awkward. But his was a responsive, if careful, performance. His voice rang out in the great moments and Take me away was all it should be.
Copyright © 13 December 2005
Robert Hugill, London UK