Review: City of Birmingham Choir, at Symphony Hall
If you’re going to celebrate a choir’s 90th birthday properly, do it with panache, confidence and the right music.
On Saturday Adrian Lucas and the City of Birmingham Choir ticked all the boxes, with vigorously secure, balanced singing and finely shaped quiet moments that brought palpable excitement to the evening – though regrettably not a large audience.
Lucas’s choice of Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass as the main work may have pushed his choir to the limit but it rarely showed, even when the supporting CBSO was at full throttle. This is a powerfully scored piece which demands to be heard in every colourful, brassy (and often manic) detail.
As do the soloists. Of the four Judith Howarth’s passionate effulgence towered supreme (she was even more awesome in the earlier Te Deum of Dvorák), while tenor Adrian Thompson brought to his authentic-sounding Slavonic tone and delivery all the energy of a terrier shaking a rat.
Despite a tendency to shout (given such unbridled orchestral accompaniment one could understand the necessity) the choir impressed greatly in the Dvorák, with thrilling soprano top notes in the opening section and a rhythmically alert Aeterna fac.
Bass soloist Keel Watson was suitably declamatory when required, although the sensitivity he and the CBC invested in the Tu rex gloriae was not matched orchestrally. Janácek’s Taras Bulba provided an appropriate CBSO filler, in a tidy, if somewhat playing-by-numbers reading, enhanced by telling woodwind solos.
Rating * * * *