Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

These artists performed Beethoven’s Mass in D (Opus 123) a week ago in Berlin, relayed live by the Digital Concert Hall, but it clashed with The Dream of Gerontius at the Proms, so I opted for that,, fully aware that the Missa would soon be in London. At the Proms John Eliot Gardiner conducted a vibrant account, alive to earthly delights and spiritual dimensions, urgent in its communication (perhaps flowing too much in the opening ‘Kyrie’), explosive and edgy at the start of the ‘Gloria’, the Monteverdi Choir bursting its collective lungs, the vocal soloists declaiming operatically, and with an attractive rawness to the ORR’s period instruments, some tearaway speeds negotiated with amazing aplomb and outreaching address. Just a tad relentless, maybe, something continued into the ‘Credo’, attacked with undisguised belief, rasping brass given its head, yet throughout there was a wide dynamic range, flexibility of tempo (if, mostly, various degrees of fastness), and rapt contemplation when needed, a sense of theatre, too – no greater contrast than the conclusion of the ‘Credo’, from an electrifying “Et resurrexit” onwards, and then how wondrous was the ‘Sanctus’, in particular Peter Hanson’s serene violin solo embedded within vocal glories. (Between the two movements, while the ORR was retuning, up pops the Radio 3 presenter to tell us nothing we didn’t already know, unnecessary and irritating, as it also had been during Gerontius.) Finally, the intense reflection of the ‘Agnus Dei’, opening on a broad canvas, morphing into the Heaven-sent melody for “Dona nobis pacem”, interrupted militarily, a moment dramatically relished, before this plea for peace crowned what is for Gardiner the “Himalayan peak of the choral repertoire”, all over in about seventy-two minutes. Compare that with a performance that Sir Colin Davis conducted at the Barbican some years ago with students from the Guildhall School and a youthful French choir, ninety remarkable minutes that found me leaving the Hall a different person to the one that had entered it. It was a different story with Sir JEG if no less compelling and revealing.

Lucy Crowe (soprano)
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo-soprano)
Giovanni Sala (tenor)
William Thomas (bass)
Monteverdi Choir
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique