THE first half of Salisbury Musical Society’s December concert consisted of three short works by Brahms.

The Tragic Overture was followed by the Song of Destiny, a work rarely heard outside the recording studio, and the Alto Rhapsody, where the tenors and basses were joined by Susanna Spicer.

It is fair to say that none of these works represents Brahms at his sunniest, but the choir sang them with conviction and sensitivity.

Susanna Spicer gave a fine performance in the Rhapsody and was ably supported by the tenors and basses, who never overpowered her by sheer weight of numbers.

If there were occasional variations in German pronunciation between different members of the choir, the articulation was clear and the text never swallowed by the orchestral accompaniment.

The principal work of the evening was Schubert’s Mass No 5 in A flat.

Here the mood was entirely different: the clouds were banished and the sun shone down.

Although the work begins and ends quietly, even plaintively, the dominant feeling is one of exultation.

In the Gloria, the Laudamus Te and in the Cum Sancto Spiritu – a fugue remarkable in both length and difficulty – SMS conveyed tremendous sense of rejoicing and excitement.

In this they were reinforced by rushing scales in the strings and exuberant passages in the brass, all performed with great verve by the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra under the baton of David Halls.

There were moments in this work when it was hard not to imagine Tyrolean scenery.

At the beginning of the Sanctus those were surely Alpine horns.

Schubert the song writer, one felt, was never very far away.

Schubert lavished an unusual amount of time and effort on this work and indeed thought so highly of it that he thought of offering it to the Emperor.

From Saturday’s evening’s performance one can see why.

Stephen Lycett