POULENC GLORIA & STABAT MATER
Waltham Singers in Chelmsford Cathedral
Two Poulenc choral masterpieces at the core of this well programmed concert.
The Gloria, from 1959, is a work of contrasts tempi, harmonies, dynamics all keep the listeners [and I imagine the performers] on their toes. The effect is vivacious, iconoclastic and wonderfully moving. The singers, under the direction of Andrew Fardell, gave an intense, dramatic reading of the work: the lusciously phrased Suscipe, the lively Domine Fili, the powerful Amen all impressively crafted. The large band the work demands was the Salomon Orchestra, excellently extrovert, though at times there were balance problems with the singers ranged behind, and some loss of clarity.
The solo soprano effortlessly filling the Cathedral and marvellously expressive in the Dominus Deus was Stefanie Kemball-Read.
The same forces are used in the Stabat Mater, performed with controlled energy by the choir, with some lovely sustained effects the word Filius, for instance and a beautiful texture and sheen to the choral sound. And, again, a thrilling Amen.
The carefully chosen instrumental fillers provided a meaningful context for the Poulenc Stravinsky, Ravel, and late Debussy, his nostalgic Berceuse Heroique, written for the war effort in 1914, a resonant lullaby for the fallen on this Armistice weekend.