To be honest, the Birmingham University Department of Music could easily have mounted this concert, involving huge forces, within the Great Hall back at base – but I’m glad they didn’t.
I can’t remember having been within the Methodist Central Hall in Corporation Street ever before, and certainly not since its reincarnation as the Q Club, but what a find it is! It is a magnificent venue with a totally natural acoustic; a neglected organ looms loweringly at one end, opposite which the steeply-raked gallery begins its impressive sweep right and left.
And on Thursday the team behind this brave juxtaposition of late-Renaissance and swinging 60s music exploited the resources of this space to the full. Stockhausen’s Carre for four orchestras and vocal ensembles swung resonantly around the audience – but outstayed its welcome. Never mind – this was a fascinating re-exploration of a musical cul-de-sac.
As was the brilliant staging of Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II, this Dante-derived work assuredly directed by Jonty Harrison, and with Philip Curtis the convincingly Italianate narrator.
But, ironically, it was the Allegri Miserere and Thomas Tallis’ 40-part Spem in Alium which spoke to us across many centuries and reminded us that they are the works which are really going to stay.