6 October 2018
It’s not hard to list a big, orchestral choral piece as a favourite experience and even easier when it’s B9 or MRequiem. We attended Mozart Requiem at our local concert hall, Cadogan Hall near Sloane Square, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the City of London Choir. Cadogan Hall is fairly small and intimate and is used for chamber music for the Proms, so such a big sound is generous in this space. We were even more blessed, taking (cheap) seats above and to the side of the orchestra, just feet over the timpani (protected by the floor below us), just feet from singers and with an easy performers’ view of conductor and piano soloist and four bassists, if just lacking for the singing soloists who projected into the hall. This is much like the orchestra hears and I enjoy that experience. The Requiem was the pop piece, but the first half was several Mendelssohn pieces, Impressario overture, a Bach-like religious cantata Vom Himmel hoch, de komm ish her and his Piano concerto no.1. Mendelssohn is, of course, the composer who reintroduced Bach to the musical world after a time of relative obscurity. We find it hard to associate Bach and obscurity these days but apparently he was mostly forgotten for some time. I sat with huge joy and closed eyes for most of the Requiem, just experiencing the sound washing over me. It was just so pleasurable, despite the sad theme. I wondered what was Mozart and what other, but so what. It wasn’t quite perfect. There was one time I felt at a loss and I dare say the musicians did there, too. But mostly I was overwhelmed by clear fast runs from basses (my prime source of discernment). I especially enjoyed following one bearded senior player with deceptively relaxed fingers. But there were other sources of pleasure. Obviously the choral voices but the strings generally with some accurately spelt responses in the piano concerto and some lovely sounds from middle strings (violas, cellos) with woodwinds (variously one bassoon, or single bassoon, oboe and flute or paired woodwinds or perhaps other combinations). It’s not something so easily realised from the stalls but became clear from our viewpoint. It was quite a lesson in colours and how they are made with woodwinds. The stage was pretty small, so piano was rolled in, partly over the conductor’s perch and very few had much elbow room, but that, too, helps intimacy. But how can you not melt with such big choral statements? This sound was big and the hall was small and we were close. For interest, the strings were the 12-10-6-6-4 with paired woodwinds but only 2 horns. The choir was about 150 (at least listed in the program). Just a pleasure and a joy and a what a great night out for ₤15 (a bargain in this expensive city).
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the City of London Choir performed Mendelssohn and Mozart in the Cadogan Hall near Sloane Square. They were directed by Hilary Davan Wetton (conductor) with soloists Leon McCawley (piano) and singers Julia Doyle (soprano), Anna Harvey (mezzo-soprano), Nick Pritchard (tenor) and Benjamin Bevan (baritone).