Musical Christmas Celebration from The Sixteen – plus Two!

December 6, 2012

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  The Sixteen at Christmas: The Sixteen / Harry Christophers (conductor), St. David’s Hall, Cardiff. 6.12.2012 (PCG)

Josquin des Prez:  Praeter rerum siderum: O Virgo prudentissima
William Byrd:  Lullaby my sweet little baby
Jean Mouton:  Nesciens mater
Thomas Ravencroft:  Remember, O thou man
Orlande de Lassus:  Magnificat Praeter rerum siderum
Herbert Howells:  Sing lullaby: A spotless rose
Arthur Oldham:  Remember, O thou man
Kenneth Leighton:  Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child
Traditional:  This is the truth sent from above (arr Vaughan Williams): Rocking (arr Willcocks): Coventry Carol: There is no rose: Wexford Carol

This was an original and well-contrasted programme juxtaposing early Renaissance settings of Nativity texts with traditional carols and some modern settings. The eighteen singers produced plenty of volume when required, as in the double-choir spread across the stage in the Mouton motet Nesciens mater, but also gave us lots of subtlety and delicacy. The performances, as one would expect from this choir, were faultless apart from one minor slip from the basses in the long des Prez motet O Virgo prudentissima. This could well be attributed to a feeling of unease with the hall itself. The antiseptic acoustic of St David’s produced some rather clinical singing especially in the first half of the programme, while the singers were becoming accustomed to the sound; one might have wished that this concert could have been given in the more resonant Llandaff Cathedral (where one noticed the next Sixteen concert in Cardiff is scheduled). Later the problems were triumphantly overcome, transporting the listener to some abbey or other provided that one kept one’s eyes shut.

One very minor point: the singers in There is no rose persistently pronounced the word “virtue” in the modern fashion (“ver-tyoo”) as opposed to the mediaeval manner (“ver-too”), which jarred slightly when rhymed with “Jesu”. On the other hand the rather indistinct delivery of the words of Rocking was perhaps a blessing. The text of this carol is credited in the Oxford Book of Carols to a translation from the original Czech by “OBC” – the author of such lines as “darling, darling little man” evidently deciding (correctly) to remain anonymous. Elsewhere the diction was excellent, with some very subtle colouring in the sudden hush at phrases like “sanctum nomen eius” in the Lassus Magnificat.

The traditional carols were all given nicely considered performances, although to have all five strophic verses of the Wexford carol given in the same harmonisation (by Martin Shaw from the Oxford Book of Carols) was perhaps too much. Vaughan Williams did not make that mistake in his The truth sent from above where he varied the setting from verse to verse; although there are similarities, this is at the same quite a different treatment from that he gave to the tune in his Fantasia on Christmas carols. In the original 1591 setting of the Coventry Carol the choir gave a nicely bruising touch to the discords in the harmonization which still, after more than four hundred years, have the power to shock.

In the more modern works, the juxtaposition of Arthur Oldham’s setting of Ravenscroft’s words in Remember, O thou man did not show to best advantage against the author’s own setting – Oldham’s use of more contrasted tempi sounded more contrived than convincing. Leighton’s setting of the Coventry Carol was done superbly, and Julie Cooper floated her solo lines with angelic grace. Best of all were the two Howells settings, both gems which made one long for the third of the set.

The choir concluded with no less than three encores, all traditional carol settings which sent the audience away happy. It was a pity that the upper parts of the hall were so empty. This same programme is being repeated in Battersea (8 December), Reading (9 December), Queen Elizabeth Hall (10 December) and Oxford (20 December). I would urge all readers to make an effort to attend these.

 

Paul Corfield Godfrey

 

 

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Facebook button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Opera North’s Dutchman Flies Into Five Concert Halls. Preview (RJ) __________________________________
  • NEW! Poets and Their Songs Feature at 2015 Oxford Lieder Festival. Preview (RJ) __________________________________
  • NEW! Music and Magna Carta at Worcester June 15-19. Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! PREVIEW: Birmingham Conservatoire’s British Piano Festival Features New and Neglected Works __________________________________
  • NEW! Visiting Orchestras Tour Switzerland 2015/16 __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview: Strings Across the Centuries at East Neuk Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! A New Opera: The Heart of Jussi Björling __________________________________
  • NEW! Summer Music In Cincinnati __________________________________
  • NEW! The Music Center’s 2015-16 Season of Dance in Los Angeles __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra Presents Details of 2015/2016 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva 2015-2016: Transitions and Opportunities __________________________________
  • NEW! Aldeburgh Looks Forward to its 68th Festival  (June 12 -28) __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera Have Announced the Programme for the 2015/16 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview: Alston at Home at The Place, London __________________________________
  • Subscribe to S&H

    Join Our Daily Mailing List and Receive Summary of Today's Reviews
    Name
    Email *

    Borodin Interview

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! The Great Canadian Artists: An Interview with Pianist Angela Hewitt __________________________________
  • NEW! The English Music Festival 2015 – Nine Years Old and Still Vibrant __________________________________
  • NEW! Pianist Paul Lewis in Conversation with Geoffrey Newman __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pleasures of Being Seriously Crackers __________________________________
  • NEW! Pianist Claire Huangci in Conversation with Stan Metzger __________________________________
  • Opera or Musical? The Eclectic Sound World of Ricky Ian Gordon __________________________________
  • NEW! Four Winners Emerge from the 2015 Hilde Zadek Singing Competition __________________________________
  • NEW! Interview with Pianist Nelson Goerner __________________________________
  • NEW! Pianist Martin Jones in Conversation with Robert Beattie __________________________________
  • Top 10 Reviewed Cities

    Reviews by Reviewer

    Monthly Archive