Reviews 2010


Mendelssohn: Paulus
Handel: Israel in Egypt

01/05/2010 Paulus by Mendelssohn
Snape Maltings

Review from East Anglian Daily Times, May 2010 by Peter Newton:

An enthusiastic audience enjoyed a lively and often beautifully sung performance of Mendelssohn’s ‘Paulus’ on Saturday at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Richard Cooke conducted the University of Essex Choir and his daughter Florence skilfully led an exuberant Essex Sinfonia.

The choir gave drama and pathos to the dramatic declamations central to the narrative shape of the oratorio. ‘Arise, shine, for thy light is come…’ was both elegant and intense and when darkness came, ‘Finsternis bedect das Erdreich…’ the full forces of the fugue were electrifying.

In the reflective and spiritual moments, such as ‘Der Erdkreis ist nun des Herrn…’ the vibrancy needed of the lower voices was sometimes absent and the orchestra occasionally overpowering. However, in the gently measured chorales, ‘Wachet auf…’ for example and the thicker chordal passages ‘Weg, mit ihm…’ lyricism and sustained articulation stood well alongside menace and hostility.

The angular, narrative shape that characterises the oratorio was skilfully threaded together by the soloists. Martin Hindmarsh (tenor) and Robert Rice (bass) were focussed and relaxed. Louise Poole (mezzo-­soprano) set the audience alight with the mellifluous warmth and intensity of the one aria allowed her by the composer.

Mary Bevan (soprano), standing in for her sister Sophie, was superb. She combined clarity and focus with an emotional intensity that was both warp and weft to the intense musical and spiritual journey on which we were taken by the expert forces at Richard Cooke’s command.

30/01/2010 Israel in Egypt by Handel
Chelmsford Cathedral

Review from Essex County Standard, February 2010 by Jackie Wallace:

Israel in Egypt realises the text of Exodus in true Handelian style and the overture to Judas Maccabeus provided an entirely appropriate scene- setting introduction.

The choir assumed the role of oppressed Israelites with immense conviction, and their energetic, crisp enunciation dispensed with the need for a printed text. Beautiful vocal tone was consistently achieved, from the subtly controlled “He sent a thick darkness”, to the mighty proclamation of “The Lord shall reign”, and they truly relished victory as their enemies were plunged into the Red Sea.

The orchestral playing was amazing, particularly in the representation of various pestilences. Quivering strings became swarms of flies and locusts, timpani beat out ferocious hailstones, and sharp stabbing rhythms portrayed the mass murder of the first–born with chilling accuracy.

Fervent performances were given by all six soloists. Spiky strings offset by lyrical oboes announced a wonderful bass duet with Michael Pearce and Julien Debreuil proudly acclaiming the Lord’s power. Tenor, Nicholas Mulroy was equally vehement as the defiant enemy, sopranos Katy Hill, and Lucy Page were charming in their intricately weaved duet and David Allsopp, counter-tenor, gave an exquisite account of “Thou shall bring them in”.

Richard Cooke directed a brilliant performance – as varied and moving as Messiah? – I think so!