Reviews 1994


Rachmaninov The Bells
Mussorgsky: Choruses: The Defeat of Sennacherib, Salammbo, Joshua, Oedipus
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 5

A Russian salad at Charter Hall
May 1

Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, Charter Hall

This concert, given by the University of Essex Choir and Essex Sinfonia, featured the works of three great Russian composers.
For a composer who once declared himself “the greatest who ever lived, ” Modest was perhaps an unfortunate Christian name for Mussorgsky. That said, he made a valuable contribution to musical history.
On this occasion we heard four pieces for choir and orchestra. All came from uncompleted operas and other choral works, and were to some degree orchestrated and revised by Nickolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
All four movements were highly melodious, and the choir and orchestra both performed well under the firm guidance of conductor Richard Cooke. There were contributions also from soloists Eleanor Bennett (soprano) and Colin Campbell (bass).
The second work performed was Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. The first movement opened with a sombre theme from the woodwind which permeated not only that movement but the work as a whole.
The second movement also began with a distinctive melody, this time a haunting, melancholic theme initially in the lower strings.
The third movement, a waltz, showed Tchaikovsky as inclined towards westernised musical ideas.
The finale is a curious blend of fanfare and climax somewhat mismatched to the pessimism of the rest of the work.
The final work on this programme, Rachmaninov’s Choral Symphony, The Bells, proved to be something of a tour de force for the choir.
Singing this difficult work in Russian, the choir and soloists gave a fine account of themselves. A similarly fine performance and equally excellent accompaniment from the orchestra should ensure a fine reception when this concert is repeated at Snape Maltings tomorrow.

Christian Roots, Essex County Standard