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Depth and Sonority

The first concert by Malcolm Goldring
and the Sitwell Singers,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER


I doubt if many people would immediately identify the composer of Dvorák's Mass in D on a first hearing, but it is an effective work with some charming moments (and also, mutter it quietly, some occasional longeurs, particularly in the Gloria and Credo).

It formed the first half of the Sitwell Singers' first concert with their new conductor, Malcolm Goldring (St John's Church, Bridge Street, Derby, UK, 15 March 2008). The Kyrie had the right degree of simplicity and clarity, the 'Crucifixus' section of the Credo was suitably forceful, a joyful account of the Sanctus gave way to gentle inwardness in the Benedictus, and the brief section for divided sopranos at the end of the Agnus Dei came off effectively.

Part 2 began with a thoughtful performance of Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine. Of Duruflé's Four motets on Gregorian themes, 'Tota pulchra es, Maria' was unexpectedly brighter, quicker (hence more celebratory, less meditative) than we usually hear. There was a fine sense of quiet fervour to the performance of Brahms' Geistliches Lied.

Organist Tom Corfield contributed two solo numbers to what otherwise would have been generally a rather monochrome second half -- a chirpy account of the Scherzetto from Vierne's 24 Pieces in Free Style, and a subtly-paced one of Reger's Dankpsalm.

Most of the concert was sung forward of the chancel steps, but for the final item, Rheinberger's Abendlied, the choir withdrew to the east end. The gain in depth and sonority to the choral sound was remarkable. A degree of thinness in the soprano tone was evident, as it was throughout the evening, but no doubt that is being worked on.

The concert was promoted under the title 'Fin de Siècle', the logic of which escaped me, even after the explanatory note in the programme. Given that only the Dvorák was written within thirty years of the end of the nineteenth century, it was a rather shaky peg on which to hang the evening.

Copyright © 26 March 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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