Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Review: Pangbourne Choral Society

PANGBOURNE Choral Society’s recent summer concert programmes have been designed to lift the spirits and this performance was no exception.

PANGBOURNE Choral Society’s recent summer concert programmes have been designed to lift the spirits and this performance was no exception.

The first half featured Haydn’s Missa In Angustiis written at a time when the Hapsburg empire was threatened by Napoleon’s revolutionary armies. News of Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile lifted morale, giving the work its now-familiar title, the “Nelson” Mass.

This has long been a staple of the choral repertoire and is sometimes performed with humdrum efficiency and interpretation. Not so on this occasion. Considerable work was evident in bringing out the distinctive features of a composition reflecting fast-emerging social and musical reformist trends.

It opens with a dramatic, poignant Kyrie requiring strong choral attack combined with soloist virtuosity (Claire Seaton, the excellent soprano, standing in at the last minute). This had several members of the audience moved to tears, soon to be dispelled by the Gloria following at a lively pace bringing together choir and four soloists in a fine climax.

Bass soloist, Giles Underwood, then opened a more reflective Qui Tollis leading to a reprise of the Gloria theme in Quoniam Tu Solus before breaking into the lively counterpoint of the In Gloria Dei Patris. By now, one had a good sense of soloists and choir working well together, supported by the baroque instruments of the superb Southern Sinfonia. The Credo had a defiant air about it, especially the unison passages in Et Resurrexit. And the Sanctus followed a similar pattern of strong homophonic gestures intermingled with flowing counterpoint in the Pleni Sunt Coeli and Osanna.

And so we moved to the optimistic finale of Dona Nobis Pacem. One sensed that the audience was captivated by a performance that brought together terrific soloists and orchestra, and a choir that maintained pitch, pace and diction throughout.

In the second half, after a lovely rendition by Southern Sinfonia of Mozart’s Divertimento In D (K136), we were treated to a miscellany of operatic arias and choruses. Pride of place must go to Claire Williams, who sang a delightful Svegliatevi Nel Core from Handel’s Giulio Cesare. Lynton Atkinson (tenor) dramatised his In Mohrenland Gefangen war (Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail) by engaging with the audience as he walked up the aisle (it was that sort of evening). Giles Underwood’s Madamina from Don Giovanni was equally pleasurable and the choir clearly enjoyed their choruses from Idomeneo and Donizetti’s Lucia De Lammermoor.

As one member of the audience was heard to say, why go to London and pay fancy prices when you can hear such a professional performance here in Pangbourne?

This was music to the ears of the 100 amateur and unauditioned members of Pangbourne Choral Society, their hard-working and painstaking musical director, Jonathan Brown, and the wonderful Southern Sinfonia, who endorsed their reputation for excellence.

It all bodes very well for chorus’s 40th anniversary season in 2014 which starts in February.

Pangbourne Choral Society’s Midsummer Delights

Falklands Chapel

Saturday, June 22


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