Haydn said that when he thought of God, he felt so happy that he would set even a Miserere to cheerful music.
That came to mind in the Birmingham Festival Choral Society?s performance of Haydn?s Harmoniemesse, as the superbly focussed voices of the chorus somehow expressed both the meaning of the word and Haydn?s optimism, while a flute fluttered poignantly about.
Such details abounded in a performance that combined symphonic sweep with an irresistible sense of enjoyment.
As Haydn raced onwards the chorus all but swung as they attacked the difficult Et vitam fugue with undisguised relish.
At the centre of all this was conductor Anthony Bradbury, in his final Birmingham concert with the BFCS.
His unfussy manner could not conceal his mastery of this 50-minute work?s structure, without which the fun would have gone for nothing.
As it was, the pleasure that he and his performers took in this life-enhancing music communicated itself unmistakably.
Another mass-setting followed after the interval ? though anything less like Haydn than Mozart?s C minor Mass would be hard to imagine. It?s a gothic cathedral in music, the chorus providing the pillars in a series of massive Bach- inspired movements.
Here, they created a new sound-world; basses dark and sonorous, the women sustaining their lines in radiant voice, and tenors launching their fugal entries with heroic vigour.
In the intervening numbers, the starry team of soloists came into its own. Sopranos Rachel Nicholls and Gillian Webster made a perfectlycontrasted pair, Nicholls poised and gloriously rich of sound in the pastoral Et Incarnatus.
The male soloists? briefer contributions were characterful and sweet-toned. But throughout the whole evening, soloists, conductor, orchestra and chorus felt like part of one ensemble.