Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Jewels Of The 18th Century

THIS February concert of the Henley Choral Society was called Jewels Of The 18th Century — and what an evening

THIS February concert of the Henley Choral Society was called Jewels Of The 18th Century — and what an evening of sparkling music it proved to be. The house was packed for a programme by three well-known composers and one obscure one: Jan Dismas Zelenka.

This Czech composer is most tuneful and worth further hearing. His Litanaie De Venerabili Sacramento, which opened the concert, rattled along for the most part with great good humour, the choir showing from the start that it meant business, with a good balance of tone.

The evening’s fresh-voiced soloists were soprano Julia Sitkovetsky, mezzo-soprano Esther Brazil, tenor Guy Cutting and bass Peter Collins. They received excellent support from the Chameleon Arts Orchestra, who came into their own in Haydn’s Symphony No 38. This was papa Haydn at his most affable, with a bravura performance from the first oboist in the final two movements.

The choir really showed its mettle when it opened Vivaldi’s Magnificat with a splendid full-bodied sound, reined in for the sinuous lines of the Et Misericordia section. They produced a fine pianissimo for the second Kyrie of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, which ended the concert, and precision in the driving movement of the Credo.

The choir is in top form, a credit to their conductor Will Dawes, who steered singers and instrumentalists through an elegant yet effervescent performance.

It was a bittersweet evening, as this was Will Dawes’ last concert at St Mary’s with the choral society. Dawes started as musical director with the society in 2006 but is spending more time in Europe and America with his vocal ensemble Stile Antico. His final concert with the society will be at Reading Concert Hall on June 8 with a performance of Verdi’s Requiem.

The next Henley Choral Society event is a Verdi Requiem workshop at 10.30am on Saturday, April 27 at St Mary’s where all singers are welcome. Visit www. henleychoralsociety.org.uk for more information.

To see a video clip of the choral society in action visit www.henleystandard.co.uk/tv

Julia Booker

Jewels of the 18th Century, Henley Choral Society

St Mary’s Church, Henley

Saturday, February 23

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