Elgar: The Kingdom
Snape Maltings, 2 May, 2004
ELGAR’s Oratorio The Kingdom; together with The Apostles, which preceded it, formed two parts of what was to have been a monumental sacred trilogy on the foundation of the Christian Church. The third part, however, was never finished; the public taste for oratorio had diminished and neither of the completed works has secured an enduring place in the repertoire. This performance of The Kingdom by the University of Essex Choir under Richard Cooke went a long way to show how unjustified this is. In a truly convincing performance Cooke revealed a score which, while it may not possess the dramatic, almost operatic, qualities which have ensured the continuing popularity of Gerontius, is full of consistently beautiful music. There was splendid singing from the excellent quartet of soloists; soprano Katarina Jovanovic, especially moving in her great aria the sun goeth down; Louise Poole’s warm-toned mezzo, Janie MacDougall’s clear tenor, and the fine dramatic bass of Michael Pearce, stepping in at short notice for an indisposed Roderick Earle. A youthful but highly professional Essex Sinfonia produced a most accomplished account of the orchestral score, but, what really set the seal on the performance was the superb choral singing. Highly disciplined, the Choir did more than justice to the subtle beauties of the choral writing and always produced a magnificently rich sound for the work’s great climaxes which are the cornerstone of this perhaps unjustly neglected masterpiece.
East Anglian Daily Times, 4 May
Chelmsford Cathedral, 1 May, 2004
Sound to make the spirits soar
Written just under 100 years ago, The Kingdom was the second part of Elgar’s unfinished religious trilogy based on the story of Christ’s Apostles. It never achieved the commercial success of The Dream of Gerontius although it is a powerful piece. And it was the perfect showcase for the University of Essex Choir who together with the Essex Sinfonia filled Chelmsford Cathedral with Elgar’s glorious music. It was a sound to make the spirits soar.
The Kingdom sees the Apostles gathering after the crucifixion of Christ together with Mary Magdalene and Christ’s mother Mary. Later the Apostles receive the ability to speak in other tongues, to preach to all the world’s people, in one of the most powerful parts of the oratorio.
The choir, which includes students and university staff, is expert in performing Elgar’s religious work and this performance led by conductor Richard Cooke confirms their reputation in interpreting his music.
The parts of the Holy Women were taken by Katarina Jovanovic and Louise Poole, with Jamie MacDougall as John and Michael Pearce replacing an indisposed Roderick Earle as Peter. Even if you normally shy away from classical music I urge you to catch their next performance -this is beautiful music at its most accessible.
JULIA GREGORY Evening Gazette, 4 May