Cello Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op.33
Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice [orch. Finzi]
Coronation Anthems – IV: My Heart is Inditing; I: Zadok the Priest
Callum Hopkins (cello)
Holly Brown (soprano), Ella Cape-Davenhill (alto), Danny Travers (treble), Johan de Silva (tenor), Ivo Almond (baritone)
Stephen Disley (organ)
City of London School Choir
City of London School for Girls Choir
City of London School Orchestra
City of London School for Girls Orchestra
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 20 March, 2012
Venue: Great Hall, City of London School, London EC4
The annual Spring Concert brings together the school orchestras of the City of London School and the City of London School for Girls, and here the added bonus was hearing from the incredibly talented Callum Hopkins in Saint-Saëns’s innovative First Cello Concerto. Hopkins is a superb musician, and rose to the dexterous challenges of the outer sections with aplomb, and his instrument sang beautifully in the inner section. There were occasions where the orchestras struggled to keep up with Hopkins’s independent thought, but this did not detract too much: the string sound here and throughout the concert was particularly fine during grand, sweeping gestures.
Gerald Finzi himself orchestrated his festival anthem Lo, The Full, Final Sacrifice the year after its 1946 premiere, and thanks go to the Revd Walter Hussey for this commission (he also got Rejoice in the Lamb from Britten, and Chichester Psalms from Leonard Bernstein). Finzi’s text comes from Richard Crashaw’s seventeenth-century poem of the same name, and memorialises the celebration of the Eucharist. This performance was a treat. Many of the grand orchestral qualities displayed in the Saint-Saëns carried-over into this work’s brief climaxes ably. But such moments are transitory, and it was to the orchestras’ credit that evocations of mystery and quiet awe dominated. Alistair Somerville’s contribution on clarinet was dazzling, particularly at high register. But it was the voices that impressed: Danny Traves’s opening was beautifully contemplative and Johan de Silva’s smooth and penetrating tenor matched Ivo Almond’s lyric baritone, and together they rose to the challenges of Finzi’s kaleidoscopic writing.
The Coronation Anthem ‘My Heart is Inditing’ was written for the moment of the consort Queen Caroline’s crowning. Intricate writing was delivered with clarity. Many moments were glorious, and Tom Davidson’s trumpet-playing punctuated superbly here and in the next Anthem. In the Great Hall of the City of London School the sound of the massed choirs was magnificent. The twists and turns of the purely orchestral introduction to ‘Zadok the Priest’ were navigated securely, and then the choirs’ opening outburst was exhilarating. Finesse was difficult to accomplish, but the singing was forceful and glorious.