University of Essex Choir
Haydn, Harmoniemesse, Charter Hall
The University of Essex Choir and Essex Sinfonia gave a stunning Christmas Concert.
Haydn’s Harmoniemesse of 1802 was his final mass, and shows him at his best, both in terms of choral writing and orchestration. From the start it was clear that this was to be an evening of the very finest choral singing, the performance made particularly special by first class soloists, Jane Margaret Doran, Kathryn Turpin, Simon Haynes and Peter Cox.
From the beauty of ‘Et incarnatus est’ in the Credo, to the exuberance of the Benediction, the soloists gave outstanding performances. The choir’s disciplined ensemble and excellent tone quality was just right for Haydn.
After the interval, we heard the ladies of the choir perform Edward Elgar’s ‘The Snow’. This is a setting of a poem by his wife, Alice. As well as depicting snow, the music also has a wonderful warmth to it, and the sopranos and altos brought out this warmth through particularly expressive legato singing.
As with the Haydn, the spontaneity and imagination of the interpretation was not least due to the choir’s conductor.
Richard Cooke, who always seemed able to draw out just the right colour and timbre from choir and orchestra, at just the right moment.
Then came a break from choral music. The violinist Jonathan Carney gave an exhilarating performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 in G Minor. The virtuostic passages were breathtaking, time seemed to stand still during Carney’s amazingly beautiful playing in the second movement.
Finally, the bass, Christopher Cox joined the orchestra and choir again, for a sparkling performance of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols. ‘
This was a concert of great variety, clearly enjoyed by the large audience.