Rossini Concert June 2019

Rossini ReviewExeter Northcott Theatre
Rossini Petite Messe Solennelle
Brahms Liebeslieder-Walzer Op 52

This was a lovely programme for a summer’s evening, genially introduced by the Conductor Howard Ionascu. It comprised two sunny works by major composers for the relatively unusual combination of choir and piano(s), rather than the more usual orchestra or organ.

Brahms’s Liebeslieder-Walzer are full of variety. They are all short pieces, some surprisingly so, and embrace a wide variety of moods and emotions. Their performance here, with different waltzes taken by choir or soloists, added to the variety.

The Petite Messe Solennelle, described by its composer as “the final sin of my old age”, is a largescale piece, full of drama, lyricism and humour. To the Ordinary of the Mass Rossini adds a communion aria, O salutaris hostia, here sung by the Soprano Clare Tunney who, of the solo quartet, best suited the operatic nature of the music. The emotional heart of the piece is the Agnus Dei, beautifully sung by the Mezzo- Soprano Giulia Laudano, bringing the work to a powerful close.

For the Rossini Mass the chorus was singing “scrambled”, ie with the voice parts mixed amongst each other. Conductors are increasingly using this technique; whilst it may help blend and intonation, it can militate against confident entries. It was a pleasure to witness a trio of former Cathedral musicians collaborating again: Andrew Millington & David Davies (pianos) and Stephen Tanner (harmonium/piano), not least in the Preludio religioso which Rossini adds for the Offertory.

Exeter is not over blessed with suitable venues for a concert such as this. The Northcott Theatre has a particularly dry acoustic, ungrateful to performer and listener alike. Despite the attractive blue and green blouses sported by the Chorus Sopranos and Altos, its black, functional, 1970s design failed to enhance the radiance of the music.

Peter King

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