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For Cipriano de Rore's Ancor che col Partire, and Andrea Gabrieli's scatalogical parody of this, the group reduced down in size which helped the textures enormously. Words can easily be lost in a resonant acoustic but in all these Italian pieces the singers made the words tell.
The final piece in the first half was Allegri's Miserere. This is a problematic piece; the well known version is a 20th century confection based on the conflation of two different manuscripts in two different keys. The results are hauntingly effective nonetheless and this is the version Nicholas Jenkins chose to perform. The motet is essentially contemplative, something which is tricky to bring off in a church beset by the noise of bells, police sirens and chatter from the crowds in the pub next door. Even though the results were not perfect, the group succeeded pretty well, though the performance took some time to settle. The solo group, in the organ loft behind the audience, was strong on commitment but lacked the relaxed ease really necessary here. It was only in the later verses that these soloists showed what they were really capable of.
Debussy's Trois Chansons de Charles d'Orleans gave the choir a chance to sing more dramatic music, a chance which they seized admirably. The tone in all three movements was nicely warm, though the first movement felt a little self indulgent. In the second the choir gave a rich textured but restrained accompaniment to the soprano solo, and in the last displayed lively enthusiasm and coped well with the tongue twisters of the French language.
Copyright © 3 November 2007
Robert Hugill, London UK