The BBC Singers in Lesser-Known Music by Franck and Ravel

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Franck and Ravel: Nancy Cole (alto), Angela Moore (harp), Deborah Chandler (cello), Nicola Davenport (double bass), Richard Pearce (organ/piano), BBC Singers / Sofi Jeannin (conductor), St Giles’ Cripplegate, London, 27.10.2017. (AS)

Franck – Choeur de PâquesAlleluia!Messe à trois voixGloria, Panis angelicus and Agnus DeiTrois offertories – Quae est ista

Ravel – Trois chansons; Chants populaires

Here was an early chance for the Swedish musician Sofi Jeannin, Chief Conductor Designate of the BBC Singers, to show her paces with the group she will soon lead, and she certainly gave a good indication of her skills with clear authoritative direction throughout this short programme, planned as an apéritif to the BBC SO concert given at the Barbican Hall later in the evening.

As the programme notes for the later concert suggested, Franck’s best and best-known works were written between 1880 and 1890, the last decade of his life. The choral pieces sung by the BBC Singers date from 1860-61, and tend to be a little long-winded, except for the once popular Panis angelicus, and to have a rather sugary quality about them – unlike his earlier music for organ.

Ravel’s Trois chansons don’t show the French master quite at his best, either, and it was left to the haunting Chants populaires, for solo singer and piano, to provide both variety and a higher quality of music for the quite large audience in this beautiful church. For these four songs, Nancy Cole stepped forward confidently from her place in the chorus and sang with beautiful control and tone quality, even if there was a slightly pallid quality in her delivery, particularly in the passionate final ‘Chanson hébraïque’.

Both singing and playing throughout was of a high quality, and one hopes that the sounds of the helicopter that obstinately hovered overhead for some of the time will not spoil the recording of the event that is planned to be broadcast in due course.

Alan Sanders

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