Puccini’s Messa di Gloria is an early work and there is little indication of the operatic master that was to follow, but the high-flying tessitura for the tenor certainly hints in that direction. Gary Marriott was un-phased by this, throwing off the long lyrical lines with ease and riding both chorus and orchestra. Barnaby Beer brought warmth to the baritone part and their duet was impressively well balanced.
If the Puccini leans heavily towards mid-period Verdi, Poulenc’s Gloria comes with a burst of mid-twentieth century clarity and freshness. The ethereal writing in the more introspective passages is captivating and Sophie Pullen found a gentle melancholy in these which was absolutely right. The Domine Deus picks this up and the setting seems to work against the overt meaning of the text. It is as if Poulenc is challenging us to re-think an over-familiar liturgy.
The chorus were better balanced than on recent occasions with a stronger male division – important in the exposed lines of the Poulenc – and a good grasp on the dynamics of the works. Kenneth Roberts kept things moving crisply with tight rhythms throughout.
BCS’s next concert is Haydn’s Creation on Saturday 8 October.
Review by Dr. Brian Hick