Sunday, February 01, 2009




Monteverdi's Vespers of 1601, a sort of showreel for his mastery of musical styles, eventually secured him a good job in Venice.

Chelmsford Cathedral is not San Marco, but its friendly acoustic and intimate architecture proved a splendid setting for a powerful performance.

The impressive forces of the University of Essex Choir, directed by Richard Cooke, produced a balanced, confident sound, with plenty of strength in the Alleluias of the opening movement, dramatic effects for the Day of Wrath, and a sure-footed account of the complex Laudate Pueri. And, almost two hours after the first downstroke, there was still plenty of energy left for the climactic Gloria.

Another key element was the London Handel Orchestra, which has the baroque expertise needed for the often brilliantly ornate instrumental passages, notably the Sancta Maria. Their authentic instruments were the focus of considerable attention in the interval, too.

And the soloists were all outstandingly good. Tenor Nathan Vale, clearly a name to watch, was superb in the Nigra Sum, and duetted impressively with Mark Wilde in the Audi Coelum. Sensuous words from the Song of Solomon were given a sparkling performance by sopranos Julia Doyle and Kirsty Hopkins.

The choir, now in its fifth decade, performs regularly in Colchester and at the Maltings in Snape. Chelmsford music lovers must be hoping that this well supported event will encourage further visits to the County Town.

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