REVIEW: Angmering Chorale

IN a truly inspired piece of programming, Angmering Chorale presented two very contrasting settings of the 13th century poem "Stabat Mater".

The first was produced by the Italian operatic composer Rossini in 1831, and the second, only last year, by popular Welsh composer Karl Jenkins.

This January, the 120-strong chorale took part in the American premiere at New York's prestigious Lincoln Center, in the presence of the composer.

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Arundel Cathedral provided the ideal setting for this extraordinary event, its statues being veiled in royal purple as befits the Lenten season.

Its lofty vaults present a challenge to any major production, but the chorale, the Arun Sinfonia and four wonderful soloists almost raised the roof with their wall of sound.

Before the main works, the Sinfonia of Arun (leader: Penelope Howard) paid tribute to their late colleague, principal viola player Sheelagh Bridgman, with a very moving performance of Hindemith's "Trauermusik".

Robin Morrish featured eloquently as viola soloist.

The poem "Stabat Mater" graphically describes Mary's grief as she stood at the foot of the cross and experienced the suffering of her beloved son Jesus.

Many composers have set this to music, but Rossini's account manages to combine deep emotions and exhilarating outbursts in truly operatic style.

Indeed, "Cujus Animam" was made famous by Pavarotti in his heyday, and tenor Nicholas Ransley relished its upbeat nature and the glorious high C in the cadenza.

A lovely duet for soprano (Sally Harrison) and mezzo (Catherine King) reminded one of Pergolesi's celebrated setting.

Gerard O'Connor (bass) was darkly mysterious and powerful in "Pro Peccatis", and the chorale were in full throttle for their final "amen".

Karl Jenkins's music is immediately recognizable for its humanity, throbbing rhythms (often with a full percussion section), great contemporary tunes and harmonies, and increasingly, the use of ethnic and esoteric sources.

Besides the usual Latin text, he uses English, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic poetry, also adding ancient instruments and modes to enhance colour.

Catherine King, as soloist, was truly riveting in her Arabic "Incantation" with its sombre, edgy tones, supported by a lone cello drone.

She was also very impressive in "Lament" (words by Jenkins's wife, Carol Barratt), the 13th century "Now my Life" and the 7th century "Are you lost?".

Jenkins's celebrated "Adiemus" set was recalled in "Ave Verum" and the Chorale really shone in the final two numbers "Fac, ut portem" and the "Paradisi Gloria", with its thrilling climactic crescendo expertly judged by dynamic conductor George Jones.


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