Sunday, May 04, 2008


Chelmsford Cathedral


A Festival of Firsts for the centenarian EMA. Helping to fill the gap left by the Cathedral Festival, they abandoned Thaxted this year for the County Town, programming two major choral works for the first time. The choirs were Brentwood, Havering, Ingatestone and the Davenant Foundation, with support from Dovercourt.

Bruckner's Third Mass was the major work. Hundreds of singers, four soloists and the might of the Essex Symphony Orchestra combined to suggest the religious fervour of the piece. The brass at the end of the Gloria soon after the Qui Tollis sequence, the soloists in the Credo, especially baritone Ben Beurklian-Carter, added to the drama of this monumental setting. The choral singing was not always totally accurate, but the power of the voices carried the day.

Elgar's mighty Te Deum and Benedictus veer between the grandiose and the devout. The choirs, under the energetic direction of Keith Orrell, did not always sound comfortable with the music, but there were some wonderful moments, such as the blaze of Glory at the end of the Benedictus.

The instrumental interlude was provided by the young Hungarian

Tamas Balla, who played an enjoyable, if inauthentic, Marcello oboe concerto. But the real treat was his encore: five minutes of unaccompanied Bach. The perfect phrases rang around the Cathedral,

bone-dry Krug after Asti.

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