Choir singing in Royal Hall
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Requiem & Violin Concerto No 5

The Royal Hall, Harrogate, 12 November 2011

Mozart flyer

Choral Society's Royal Hall sellout

It must be a few years since the Harrogate Choral Society last had a sell-out at the Royal Hall, but this happened on 12th November for their all-Mozart concert. Of course, they are rarely able to share the platform with a musician of the calibre of the violinist Nicola Benedetti, and the glamorous photo of this international star on the concert leaflets cannot have hindered sales.

There was, however, nothing excessively glitzy about her performance of Mozart's 5th Violin Concerto. The brilliance of her playing was totally within Mozart's idiom, serving the music rather than displaying virtuosity. In the cadenza of the first movement she allowed herself to linger on the counter-rhythms and rich harmonies; and she adeptly captured the variety of moods of the Rondo finale from its humorous clanging dance tunes and scurrying runs to its gentler ending. Fittingly, she chose for her encore not a bravura piece but rather an introspective movement from a Bach Partita. The audience were entranced by its emotional intensity and spirituality.

Clearly, after this remarkable performance, there was a risk that the Requiem might come as an anti-climax. On the contrary, it was on an equally elevated plane. The chorus had already shown its mettle in the bright and breezy Sancta Maria Mater Dei and the gracefully melodious Ave Verum Corpus which had opened the evening. In the Requiem they were on top form. They confidently attacked the fugal passages in the Kyrie and the Hostias. Singing out with energy when required, they were also able to maintain colour and quality when restrained in volume, as in the Salva Me which follows the outbursts of Rex Tremendae. And in the Confutatis Maledictis there was a lovely contrast between the low rumbling sound of the penitent males and the ethereal tones of the females calling for redemption.

The choir were joined by a fine quartet of soloists among whom Jonathan Best, of operatic renown, stood out with his firm bass and immaculate phrasing. Yet again, Andrew Padmore demonstrated what a good conductor he is, sensitively accompanying Benedetti and drawing fervour as well as precision from his choir. He is obviously a Mozartian to the core because he paced the works so convincingly. A truly memorable evening.

Anthony Ogus