Tue, 02 Apr 2019
REVIEW by DEREK ANSELL: Newbury Choral Society, The Seasons
at St Nicolas' Church, on Saturday, March 23
THE Seasons is often compared unfavourably with The Creation, Haydn’s most famous oratorio and yet this work is frequently performed and has enjoyed considerable critical praise over the years. It was first performed in Vienna in 1801 and was one of the last major works of the aging composer.
Strings and woodwind combined for a charged, free-flowing opening to Spring, soon to be joined by brass punctuations. The first recitative was by bass Dingle Yandell, his voice resonant and deep, dramatising his solo.
Andrew Mackenzie, tenor, was clear and bright with a horn melody backing the choir. Charlotte Shaw sang her first recitative in a warm, glowing soprano voice, rising effectively over the quiet passages of the orchestra, as they reached their first pastoral note. The trio section was impressive, soloists combining to great effect in harmony with the choir and orchestra. This section became dramatic as it gathered momentum.
Summer opened quietly as Yandell sang In misty mantle now draws near the gentle morning light. The trio and chorus joined forces again effectively for the passage And now ascends the sun. Cathal Garvey’s precise conducting brought out the summer activities in musical colour, particularly in the lead up to the storm; first in the portrayal of raging heat in the Cavatina and later the rumble of tympani that heralds the arrival. Brass, woodwind and strings painted an effective picture of the hot land and approaching storm, culminating with the storm itself. The trombones, sturdy and pitched low, were heard to good advantage here. The singers brought their vibrant voices to conclude Summer in the Trio and Chorus before the choir alone ended summer with a flourish from the orchestra.
Autumn offered more of the sonorous combination of bass, tenor and soprano voices juxtaposed with the orchestra. And the duet between Shaw and McKenzie was delightful, with snippets of woodwind behind them. The Chorus of Peasants and Hunters introduced the sound of the horns, raw and strident in this context, assisted in loud passages by the full orchestra. Winter began as a whisper from the orchestra with a more subdued sound from the horns. Charlotte Shaw's mournful voice heralded cold, wet days to come.
This atmospheric work was performed with great style, skill and enjoyment by the choir, orchestra and soloists and was conducted with flair and sensitivity by Cathal Garvey. Newbury Choral Society have never sounded better. With the Covent Garden Chamber Orchestra and these three fine soloists the combination was a winning one.