Norwich Baroque and Norwich Cathedral Consort
Conductor - Tom Primrose
Director / leader - Jim O'Toole
Soloists: Billie Robson, Tim Morgan, Daniel Bartlette, Robert Rice
Symphony 1 - Boyce
Jehova Quam Multi Sunt Hostes Mei - Purcell
O Lord look Down From Heaven - Battishill
Ich Habe Genug - Bach
Lorde Let Me Know Mine End - Greene
Turn Unto Me O Lord - Boyce
Lutheran Mass in G Minor - Bach
The EDP was not able to provide reviewers and therefore 2 independent reviews were sought. Many thanks to John Aplin and Xenia Horne for their time and consideration.
1. REVIEW BY JOHN APLIN:
Norwich Baroque & Cathedral Consort at Norwich Cathedral
Saturday 31st March 2012
An imaginative mix of English and German baroque, built around the music of Boyce and Bach, attracted a large audience to Norwich Cathedral on Saturday evening, so much so that the start had to be delayed to accommodate the queue at the door.
William Boyce’s orchestral works will be familiar to many and it was with the first of his eight symphonies that Norwich Baroque, directed from the violin by James O’Toole, gave the evening a fresh and vibrant start. There was plenty of finesse and precision on show from the group’s fourteen string players, with dancing allegros framing a gracious moderato.
A less familiar face of Boyce was revealed later in the evening as the Norwich Cathedral Consort, directed by Tom Primrose and supported by just organ continuo, boldly tackled the extraordinarily impassioned writing of his Lenten anthem Turn unto me O Lord, which culminates in some energetic counterpoint.
The mastery of J. S. Bach concluded each half of the programme, but with interpretations which could hardly have been more different. Robert Rice (bass) decided to keep the intensity of the solo cantata no. 82 Ich habe genug very much at arm’s length, rushing the rocking quavers of the central aria “Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen” (“Fall asleep, you weary eyes”) and underplaying the declamation of the brief succeeding recitative. The strings of Norwich Baroque were joined by mellow baroque oboe for the outer movements; Bach’s use of oboe obbligato invariably heightens the music’s poignancy, and did so here, particularly in its opening dialogue with the soloist, despite the occasional tonal mishap.
At the opposite end of the interpretational spectrum was Bach’s Lutheran Mass in G minor. Tom Primrose encouraged a full tone and unashamed energy from his choir as it tackled Bach’s characteristic textural complexities, but occasionally this overwhelmed the delicate accompanying orchestral sonorities, so that they only really shone through in the extended instrumental interlude within the final Cum Sancto Spiritu.
The central movements of the mass are reserved for soloists. Tenor Daniel Bartlette was sensitively accompanied by solo oboe and continuo in the extended Qui tollis, while countertenor Tim Morgan, who had earlier shared two delightfully-luminous duets with soprano Billie Robson, was pre-eminent in clarity of tone and sheer musicality in Domine Fili. A current choral scholar at Norwich Cathedral, he should go far.
2. REVIEW BY XENIA HORNE
This concert at Norwich Cathedral on Sat 31st March proved so popular that there was a slight delay to the start time while all the audience were accommodated. A very positive sign ! The programme was carefully selected to showcase iconic compositions of the period, with the Consort singing at A415 pitch and the introductions of new woodwind players to augment this well established and exuberant instrumental group .
There was certainly a buzz of excitement with the performance of Symphony No 1, William Boyce, the players creating a majestic yet spritely texture with the Allegro first movement. At times the pace seemed a little too fast for comfort, however the delicate reprisals of the opening phrases, and deftly executed continuo carried this beautiful piece through to a stunning conclusion. The string section shone here playing with verve and panache.
Jehova Quam Multi Sunt Hostes Mei, Purcell followed, conducted by Tom Primrose , sung with energy by the choir. Daniel Bartlette, Tenor voice featured here, ably singing through the complex phrasing, and communicating the text well. Also notable was the organ accompaniment, empathetically delivered by David Dunnett, whose timing was impeccable.
The highlight of the evening was the extraordinary voice of countertenor Tim Morgan. He sang with complete control and succeeded in marrying well-executed technical delivery with beautifully shaded interpretation. Despite his young age, his vocal power is already well-developed and the clarity and purity of tone worked in complete synergy with the ensemble to create a rich performance .
During the Bach Cantata for Bass, Robert Rice did not always have the power to project over the ensemble playing although when he did, his voice had warmth and colour. He seemed to have some difficulty hitting notes at the bottom of his range. Perhaps this affected his confidence during the rest of the performance although for the final recitative each word was crystal clear, with a perfect balance between his voice and the chamber organ.
The Consort did come in to their own in the second half of the programme with a haunting performance of Lorde Let Me Know Mine End, Maurice Greene, again featuring Tim Morgan’s pure delivery.
In Bach’s Lutheran Mass The Cathedral Consort were not always audible and there were issues both with articulation and projection. Many of the singers rarely looked at their conductor and kept their eyes firmly in their scores which meant that the communication of the libretto did not actually reach their audience. There were exceptions of course, with some well-focussed and detailed work from member s of the First and Second Sopranos, and Altos. This was a disappointment as there is so much drama and passion within the text. However, in contrast, Norwich Baroque were in fine form, with choreographed ensemble playing. One of the features of this group is their ability to communicate with each other through eye contact and body language. You see, as well as hear each phrase as it moves from one section to the next, picked up with energy and determination.
If the Norwich Cathedral Consort, under the attentive and passionate leadership of Tom Primrose, can emulate this level of focus and dynamic, then I will certainly look forward to more collaborations between the two groups.