Elgar's 'The Music Makers' in Derby Cathedral
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER
Most big choral societies will, I imagine, be marking the Elgar anniversary with The Dream of Gerontius, or perhaps The Apostles or The Kingdom. So three cheers to Derby Choral Union for, instead, championing The Music Makers, something of a poor relation among the composer's larger choral works (Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 21 April 2007).
They made a bold choice of companion work, too -- Cherubini's C minor Requiem, which opened the evening. This is a fascinating piece, though its lack of solo voice parts may perhaps limit its appeal. The choir found the right blend of drama and solemnity, with conductor Richard Dacey controlling the long-range ebb and flow of tension impressively in the two longest movements, the Dies Irae and Offertorium. The initial choral entry in the Agnus Dei needed just a touch more edge.
The Music Makers got off to a strong start, with Richard Dacey establishing a powerful forward momentum in the orchestral prelude. This was an ardent, committed performance, though there was room for a greater sense of hushed concentration in some of the more inward passages.
It had an outstanding soloist in mezzo Louise Poole, who invested her role with both passionate warmth and dignity. 'But on one man's soul ...', Elgar's tribute to his late friend, colleague and confidant August Jaeger (quoting his music from the Enigma Variations) rang out with real expressive fervour.
Although there were some untidy moments, from both choir and orchestra, and an occasional sense of strain in the sopranos' top notes, interpretively this performance made all the right moves, and made them with conviction.
Copyright © 26 April 2007
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK
DERBY CHORAL UNION