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Stylistic Variety

Passiontide music sung by the Derwent Singers,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


A sequence of contemplative Passiontide music runs the risk of expressive monotony, but the Derwent Singers ensured plenty of stylistic variety in their chosen programme (St Mary's Church, Bridgegate, Derby, UK, Friday 24 March 2006).

The Renaissance items were sung with great expressive warmth. In Tallis's Lamentations, part 1, the switch to a quieter, more withdrawn tone for the 'Jerusalem, Jerusalem' section was a nice touch, and their refusal to over-dramatise the tortuous harmonies of Gesualdo's O Vos Omnes allowed them to speak all the more effectively.

The centre-piece of the first half, Allegri's Miserere, was sung with expressive power, although the solo quartet, placed in a small west-end gallery, had problems with tuning.

The gentle crooning of Messiaen's O Sacrum Convivium made an effective buffer between the bold dynamic contrasts of Bruckner's Christus Factus Est and the huge expressive and stylistic range of Knut Nystedt's O Crux, all of which the Derwents projected with conviction. It was good to see Nystedt, little-known in this country but a major force in Norwegian choral music, being introduced to Derby audiences in such a confident performance.

In the second half, Fauré's Requiem got a beautifully gentle, intimate performance in keeping with its original character. The opening of the Sanctus was perhaps a little too disembodied, but the Hosannas rang out superbly. Organist Andrew Abbott played sympathetically, handling the unusual tone of the St Mary's organ with aplomb. Conductor Richard Roddis shaped the music with nicely understated eloquence, and there were telling solo contributions from choir members Michael Castles, Sally Hughes and Leonard Johnson.

Copyright © 30 March 2006 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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