REVIEW: South West Festival Chorus

South West Festival Chorus. Picture by Adrian Harris

South West Festival Chorus. Picture by Adrian Harris

First published in Entertainments


BRAVING the wind and rain, we were first rewarded by a beautifully controlled performance of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine.

This lovely piece was written when Fauré was just 20 years old and shows many of his trademark techniques: a simple or sparse accompaniment (for this piece, on organ, played by Nigel Nash) with luscious harmonies in the choral writing.

It drove away thoughts of the tempestuous weather for a time.

The Fauré works were interspersed with works by a colleague and friend of his, Charles-Marie Widor.

First was No.5, Allegro Vivace.

This was very adeptly played by Nigel Nash but somehow, especially after the warmth of the Fauré, seemed somewhat empty of emotion.

This was followed by Mass no. 36.

Written for two organs and two choirs, it was full of bombast and triumphal orchestrating, but overall seemed to be a huge collection of perfect cadences and put me in mind of being cheerfully slapped on the back by an overly boisterous and optimistic friend.

The final work was Fauré’s Requiem, one of his best-known works, with some exceptional writing and stunningly beautiful melodies.

The work opens with a sombre Kyrie, with the chorus singing softly before the tenors announce one of the main themes. The second section featured the baritone soloist Gavin Carr, who sang with much warmth and beauty from the pulpit.

The Sanctus is one of the beautiful melodies everyone knows, followed by the gorgeous Pie Jesu.

The soprano soloist here was young Lizzie Begley making her professional debut. Gavin Carr returned for a final intense solo in the Libera Me section, before the sopranos had the great task of carrying the In Paradisum final section.

After the Widor, Fauré’s writing seemed so delicate, with clouds of drifting harmony and intensely lovely melodies as “the angels draw them into paradise”.

It is no surprise this section is often chosen as a Desert Island Disc.



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