Saturday’s programme of British music from the early decades of the 20th century looked enticing; in the event its performance in this Worcester Festival Choral Society concert proved disappointing.
Whether it was the Cathedral acoustic, the imbalance with a noisy Chameleon Arts Orchestra, or just sheer tonal inadequacy, diction from the chorus was largely unintelligible – a blessing, perhaps, in view of some of the dire poetry they were required to deliver in Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet (and can anyone explain why a photograph of Arthur Bliss ousted Stanford in the programme-notes?).
William Clements’ baritone solo made a brave fist of Henry Newbolt’s tedious versifying, but most of the vocal contributions were drowned in the great washes of Stanford’s glumpy orchestral music scarcely worth the hearing.
More dire poetry in Elgar’s Sea Pictures, mezzo Catherine King delivering these gruesome texts with clarity if not always comfort in Elgar’s veering registers.
Elgar’s almost light-music Pomp and Circumstance March no.5allowed the CAO its unbridled head, before Walton’s tremendous Belshazzar’s Feast promised so much: scintillatingly clear choral diction at last, before the orchestra muscled in; thereafter attack – even on the “Alleluias” – was feeble.
Clements delivered the biblical narrative with perhaps too much emphasis. But conductor Adrian Lucas could surely have done so much more to balance his forces; the choir is paramount here, not orchestral indulgence.
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