Royal Philharmonic/Sir Andrew Davis [The Wasps … Sea Pictures … A Child of Our Time]

Vaughan Williams
The Wasps – Overture
Sea Pictures, Op.37
A Child of Our Time

Nicole Cabell (soprano)
Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano)
Thomas Walker (tenor)
David Wilson-Johnson (baritone)

London Symphony Chorus
London Philharmonic Choir

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis

Reviewed by: Edward Clark

Reviewed: 6 April, 2008
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Michael TippettSay what you like about the Royal Albert Hall but it remains London’s best venue for choral works. Neither of the other ‘big’ concert halls comes anywhere near to providing the atmosphere and resonance required for such repertoire.

For its latest concert in its “Green and Pleasant” series the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra can be praised for avoiding the obvious. Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Tippett are familiar but the works chosen are rare visitors to concert-halls.

Nicole CabellIt is particularly gratifying to welcome Tippett’s “A Child of Our Time”, as ‘worthy’ as anything as anything by Elgar, Walton and Britten in the British choral repertoire, both here and abroad. Here a Tippett specialist, Sir Andrew Davis, who displayed a sure feel for the special qualities of this composer’s humanist tract, conducted. He obtained excellence from the London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir and the Royal Philharmonic. The four soloists were all on good form. Nicole Cabell floated her high lines in remarkable fashion. The moment when the choir enters with the spiritual ‘Steal away’ following the soprano’s words “How can I comfort them when I am dead?” is in the pantheon of sublime musical moments and here bought tears to at least one pair of eyes.

Sir Andrew had opened the concert with a lively, tightly controlled Wasps Overture; the lyrical, expansive theme was allowed to expand and made an unusually eloquent effect. Eloquence is also the word that describes Catherine Wyn-Rogers’s singing in Elgar’s “Sea Pictures”, adding fervour in the finest of these songs, ‘The Swimmer’ – early Elgar but a master is at work.

But this concert was dominated by Sir Michael Tippett’s great oratorio, and in a notable and revealing performance.

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