When Elgar founded a music department at the University of Birmingham 101 years ago he must have dreamt of an occasion such as we shared on Sunday.
This remarkable performance of Verdi's Requiem stemmed almost entirely from the strengths and current well-being of the university's musical life. There were pleasingly few outside "stiffeners" in the largely student orchestra, and I doubt whether there were that many imports in the huge chorus either.
The effect was one of youthful vigour, open-hearted, willing and flexible. Freshness, however, can equal rawness unless, as we had here, dedicated preparation and rehearsal come into the equation, and much of the credit for this must go to Elgar's spiritual successor, Professor Colin Timms.
Timms is a conductor lacking in ego but brimming in musicality, a sensitivity which here could not help but influence the hundreds of performers under his control.
The result was phrasing of natural fluency, underpinned by a sense of rhythmic direction not always noted in this deeply emotional masterpiece. Balance and tone both within and between choir and orchestra were well-judged and rich, even at the courageously quietest of dynamics - to the extent that the chorus' careful page-turnings came as a shock at the hushed opening.
Naturally in a work as demanding and exposed as this there was the odd blemish - mainly after the intrusive interval which always, without exception, lowers the voltage in this piece which should be delivered without a break. But the spiritual sense of awe and drama was ever-present.
Timms' solo quartet were magnificent, including Wendy Dawn Thompson's well-shaped mezzo and soprano Claire Weston's properly operatic fearless delivery. And no audience idiot encroached on the hushed concluding entreaties.
Christopher Morley ..SUPL: