This centenary year of the birth of Benjamin Britten has featured few events dedicated solely to the English composer’s work; rather, the observances have been perfunctory and largely confined to the sphere of chamber music.
His operas have been unvisited, as have the Church Parables, symphonies and concertos. While the Melbourne Festival Sunset programs aired two string quartet works, Thomas Ades conducted the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Our Hunting Fathers, and Sir Andrew Davis the Four Sea Interludes. But all-Britten events have been rare.
Full credit, then, to Andrew Raiskums and his Gloriana singers who presented two familiar pieces, a true rarity and one of the composer’s most difficult choral constructs on Sunday afternoon.
While A Ceremony of Carols is usually the preserve of boys’ choirs, the benefits gained from using the Gloriana sopranos and altos emerged in consistency of pitch, crisp entries and a welcome emotional flexibility, all reinforced by the support of harpist Jacinta Dennett. The well-known A Hymn to the Virgin also enjoyed a confident, balanced airing.
Britten’s early Christ’s Nativity makes hefty demands that these singers met with energetic enthusiasm, notably in the hectic central Preparations segment.
But the group’s finest work came in A Boy was Born where the singers negotiated many difficult passages, none more so than the final Noel! that made sense of some fiercely rapid writing followed by an ardent retrospective conclusion.
Read the original article on the Sydney Morning Herald Website.