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Review: Britten Centenary Concert, CBSO Choruses at Symphony Hall

Christopher Morley reviews the Britten Centenary Concert, by CBSO Choruses, at Birmingham Symphony Hall.

Britten Centenary Concert, CBSO Choruses at Symphony Hall
*****

Britten famously loved working with young people, and had a huge gift for setting the English language.

Both elements featured hugely on Friday, when the tumblingly lively CBSO choral family (we almost need an old woman’s shoe) celebrated the exact centenary of the composer’s birth - but also the 30-year anniversary of Simon Halsey’s tenure as chorus director.

During this period Simon has worked alongside three of the world’s most sought-after conductors (Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons), preparing so many memorable performances under their batons.

Now, in this all-Britten programme, the many choirs Simon has inaugurated under the auspices of the CBSO Chorus (the Youth Chorus, the Children’s Chorus - as well as the Birmingham University Singers and University Women’s Choir) delivered a brilliantly-arranged sequence of the composer’s choral music.

Projection, diction and disciplined responsiveness are perennial watchwords illuminating the performances of all these ensembles, and Halsey calls on these factors with such relaxed, expressive direction. And throughout, all the excellent soloists were drawn from the ranks of the various choirs. What a heartwarming triumph for all concerned.

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