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The Bach Cantata launched the programme with zest and sparkle, with Norah King as soprano soloist. Currently pursuing postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music, Miss King already has a clutch of major engagements in Europe and in Ireland, where she received her first degree. Her natural brightness of tone, and rich glow, were shaped with considerable technique and agility, especially in the buoyant first movement and the final Halleluya movements, in a bright duet with nimbly articulated trumpet obligato played with exciting precision by Yuval Shapiro, a graduate of Israel's Tel Aviv Academy and currently a postgraduate in Karlsruhe. The string quartet, Lene Zeliszewaka and Anna Smith, violins, Amy Wein, viola and Ros Acton, cello, gave excellent support with clarity in the contrapuntal textures. Norah King's voice came to the fore in the expressive central movements, the eloquent second, where, supported by calm string chords, her duet with the expressive cello of Ros Acton flowed and flowered with beauty and poise. Despite occasional lapses of intonation, her resilient tone added a sheen to the chorale phrases which contrast with the Brandenburg-like electricity of the final movement, and the bubbly 'Halleluya' intertwining once more with Shapira's resonant trumpet.

In The Lewis Carroll Poems Norah King's operatic characterisation well suited the musical idiom which brought alive the poetry with bite and wit. Porat, a highy talented young Israeli composer and pianist currently pursuing advanced studies in London with George Benjamin and Murray Perhaia, has a considerable work list, including a forthcoming opera based on Orwell's Animal Farm. This cycle, which dates from his teens, is fresh and vivid, with echoes both of the Britten and Walton cabaret works, as well as more contemporary idioms. The highly contrasted first movement conjures up the poetry's mood of fantasy, with acerbic harmonies, frequent neoclassical allusions, and effects such as imitative glissandi. There is a more slinky jazziness to the second, with an ostinato-like syncopation for clarinet, keenly projected by Andy Harper, and snatches of spoken text; the cycle culminates with an exuberant dance. Its striking palette, enhanced by flute, Alex Jakeman, with Matan Porat at the piano, was spiced with subtle surprises, including a tantalising texture formed by the soprano line contrasted by a chorale hummer by all the players, above all conveyed a sense of wonder and enjoyment of words and sounds in tune with Lewis Carroll's perennially piquant poetry.

Copyright © 17 February 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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