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Brahms and Jazz

Organist Peter Gould joins forces
with The Swingle Singers,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


Forty-five years on from their beginnings in Paris, The Swingle Singers are an institution. The latest generation, fresh from their engrossing performance of Berio's Sinfonia at the Proms, are taking to the road with a programme they've called 'Battle of the Fugues'. They are visiting a number of cathedrals round the country to team up with the local organist in a combined programme featuring some of their trademark Bach transcriptions, among others; this (Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 18 July 2007) was the first date on the tour.

What impressed most were the range of sounds at their command, including some remarkable percussion effects. (If you didn't know you might have been fooled into thinking they they were using backing tracks). Occasionally pitching was not quite accurate, and where they used texts, as in Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, words would have benefited from clearer projection. But their energy, blend and ensemble were impeccable.

Derby Cathedral's Peter Gould held his corner convincingly, not least in a sparkling performance of Alain's Litanies. This was the well-chosen contrast to the Swingles' astonishing account of Debussy's La Cathédrale Engloutie, which brought out its affinities with Vaughan Williams' Full Fathom Five.

Their two encores brought the house down -- a terrifically gutsy version of Henry 8th's Pastime with Good Company, and Brahms' Fifth Hungarian Dance given the full-blooded Swingles treatment. Brahms and jazz -- now there's an intriguing thought.

Copyright © 24 July 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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