Fauré’s Requiem, MacMillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross, Symphony Hall

Saturday, 15th May 2010 at 7:30pm; Symphony Hall, Birmingham.

Review

City of Birmingham Choir at Symphony Hall

James MacMillan’s Seven last Words from the Cross is a work of harrowing intensity, designed to stretch choral abilities – and listeners’ emotions – to the limit.

Happily, though that’s hardly the right word for such a grimly devout expression of faith, it came together perfectly in this stunningly accomplished performance by Adrian Lucas and the City of Birmingham Choir.

Indeed, if anyone is thinking of writing a history of the CBC (for the centenary in 2021, perhaps?), this concert must go down as one of its greatest achievements.

With its beautifully poised otherworldly qualities (and so much detailed, luminescent tone from such a large chorus) in the quietly reflective passages, to the many anguished cries of human despair (“Woman, Behold Thy Son!” and “I thirst” still linger in the memory) at moments of high drama, Lucas and his singers were totally in command of the many and varied demands this inspired – and inspirational – piece makes.

Just as important, too, were the wonderfully supportive (and much-augmented) strings of the Orchestra of the Swan, at times blistering with white-hot passion in places like the shatteringly apocalyptic “It is finished” yet, in the long unwinding postlude of “Father, into Thy hands,” transporting us exquisitely into the higher realms of spiritual contemplation.

A truly moving experience in every way.

Rating: 5/5

David Hart in the Birmingham Post, 21 May 2010

Concert details

Abigail KellyJack Furber – soprano
William Clements – baritone
Adrian Lucas – conductor
City of Birmingham Choir
Orchestra of the Swan

Fauré: Requiem
Finzi: Romance
James MacMillan: Seven Last Words from the Cross

The exquisite Requiem and James MacMillan’s mesmerising and deeply moving music combine in a concert of emotional intensity.

“… sensitively proportioned. …a total awareness of musical structure”

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