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Review

Finzi Clarinet Concerto with Emma Johnson
Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice
Fauré Requiem

Harrogate Choral Society with Manchester Camerata

The Royal Hall, Harrogate, 2 November 2013

Faure and Finzi flyer

Superb renditions of Finzi and Faure

The programme, devoted to the works of just two composers, Finzi and Faure, opened with Finzi’s splendid choral work, Lo, The Full Final Sacrifice dating from 1946. It was presented here in its orchestrated version of 1947 which allowed the audience to hear Finzi’s wonderful use of orchestral colour. The Choral Society were on very good form, the tenors, numerically few deserving a special mention for their accuracy and pleasant, unforced tone. This work is full of changes of both mood and key, reflecting the words of Richard Crashaw from whose metaphysical poems the text was drawn. The performance by the choir showed signs of excellent preparation; they were alert, obviously eager to deliver this work and together with the excellent playing by The Manchester Camerata delivered Finzi’s composition with a great sense of sensitivity and devotion.

The second work of the evening was the Clarinet Concerto by the same composer featuring the world class clarinettist, Emma Johnson who brought her delightful personality as well as her superb sense of style and talent to the Royal Hall stage. The Concerto dates from 1949 and is unique in its style. The first movement shows the orchestra in obdurate mood, playing as if trying to persuade the solo clarinet to copy. Failing to do so, the clarinet part meanders in its own sweet way for the most part. Emma Johnson captured this perfectly producing a great range of dynamics together with beautiful phrasing and nuance. The second movement clearly demonstrated her incredible control of her instrument in the quite plaintive delivery and almost impossibly soft entries growing out of the orchestral tone. The last and most playful movement was a joy to hear, the clarinet dancing along hand in hand with the beautifully played strings of the orchestra, bringing this fine work to its end and the richly deserved applause from the appreciative audience. This charming and brilliant clarinettist, returned to entreat the audience with an encore, the splendid Etudes by Paul Harvey on Themes of Gershwin.

The final work of the evening was the well-known Requiem by Gabriel Faure. Although this can be regarded as a requiem on a small scale, it is by no means easy to perform. Phil Wilcox, baritone sang a good Hostias and Libera me whilst Christina Jones sang a well-supported Pie Jesu. Using quite large orchestral forces, Andrew Padmore kept a tight control over both the dynamics and the phrasing, whilst the Chorus sang most effectively, well in tune and singing with a warm breadth of tone.

Adrian Selway