Sir Roger Norrington conducts Mozart

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Tuesday 25th March

Symphony Hall

Zurich Chamber Orchestra
Sir Roger Norrington conductor
Jonathan Biss piano

Mozart Symphony No 1 in E flat 13’
Piano Concerto No 21 29’
Symphony No 41, Jupiter 31’

Over a revolutionary career, Sir Roger Norrington has changed the very way we hear the music of the classical period. And as he enters his ninth decade, his performances are as revelatory as ever. Symphony Hall is proud to host his official eightieth birthday concert, as he directs his Zurich Chamber Orchestra in Mozart’s first and last symphonies – and partners Jonathan Biss in one of Mozart’s most eloquent concertos.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

This evening it’s the turn of a great British conductor who celebrates his 80th birthday this month. Famed for his extraordinary performances using period instruments, Sir Roger Norrington has worked tirelessly to play music in the way that it was originally conceived. With three of Mozart’s best-loved pieces, this concert will no doubt be a glimpse into what the composer might have envisaged his audiences would hear when he wrote these great works.

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “The showman is still there – in the way that he prompted the fugal entries at the end of the finale of K551, like a conjuror displaying his prowess to his fans – while some of the fine detail, such as the little crescendos and diminuendos in the opening bars of the same symphony, was fascinating. But it was all a bit subdued – the Jupiter really needs to bristle and swagger a bit more than Norrington allowed.

In between there was a piano concerto, the C major, K467, with Jonathan Biss as soloist. Biss played with his back to the audience, Norrington seated at the other end of the piano facing him, and the orchestra in semicircles around them. It conveyed a real sense of chamber music-like intimacy, and the performance had a fresh, lively feeling. Tempi were generally on the quick side – the slow movement seemed more like an allegretto than an andante, with no suggestion of the dreamy idyll that some pianists create – though the concerto was never driven hard; Biss seemed happy to go along with Norrington’s laid-back approach.”

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Review by David Fay, Bachtrack (for same programme  but at Cadogan Hall, London)

Click here for full review

 

San Francisco Symphony

and Michael Tilson Thomas

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Friday 14th March

Symphony Hall

San Francisco Symphony

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor

St Lawrence String Quartet

Ives (arr Brant) The Alcotts from A Concord Symphony 6’
John Adams Absolute Jest for Orchestra and String Quartet 27’
Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique 49’

Encore – Copland – Saturday Night Waltz

America is a land of new perspectives; and under its dynamic music director Michael Tilson Thomas the San Francisco Symphony has built a worldwide reputation for innovative programming. Tonight they present a fresh take on music by Charles Ives, a true American original, before teaming up with the St Lawrence String Quartet for John Adams’s vibrant new quadruple concerto (you can listen to a short extract from the piece here). And to finish, Berlioz’s spectacular Symphonie Fantastique – music that never stops sounding new.

In the video below, Tilson Thomas gives an exclusive introduction to the works featured in the concert.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine explains why he has recommended tonight’s concert:

During his time at the helm of the San Francisco Symphony since 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas has transformed his orchestra into perhaps the finest in the US. His energy is thrilling, and his passion for the American music he’ll be conducting will doubtless be palpable. As for the radical Berlioz? He and MTT were made for each other.

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Michael Tilson Thomas talks to Christopher Morley:

Click here for full article

…     ”   “For me, making music is a journey I like to compare to going to a park. You may know the park, you know the trails. But the company in which you find yourself has a great effect on the nature of that journey.

“Over many years having walked these trails in these symphonies with my colleagues in San Francisco there’s a sense of ease of our ability to turn our attention to one thing or another while having the big objective of the journey in mind.”     ”   …

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Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “After a good deal of busy music a brief, slower section dominated by the quartet, initially accompanied by tuned and un-tuned percussion, seems to act as both slow movement and cadenza. The orchestra becomes involved in this slow episode after a while and the music then accelerates into hyperactivity in a way that put me in mind of Shaker Loops and, later, of Short Ride in a Fast Machine. The work seems to be heading for a tumultuous end and then, in a masterstroke, Adams cuts off the quartet and full orchestra and the last word – a quiet one – is provided by the deliberately mis-tuned piano and harp.

I enjoyed Absolute Jest greatly and I’m impatient to hear it again. So far as I could tell on a first hearing it received a fabulously virtuosic and committed performance from both the St. Lawrence String Quartet and the orchestra. I was delighted to see that the Birmingham audience gave the piece a very warm reception.

After we’d all got our breath back during the interval Tilson Thomas conducted a work that he says is in his bone: Symphonie Fantastique. This is a score tailor-made to show off a virtuoso orchestra and that was achieved here. However, I mustn’t give the impression that MTT treated it as a ‘mere’ showpiece for such was not the case. The introduction to the first movement was shaped delicately and with great finesse in the playing. The different hues of Berlioz’s amazingly original scoring were expertly realised. When the main allegro was reached the reading was lithe. The San Francisco woodwinds had ample opportunity to show their agility and the strings were capable of great dexterity without ever sacrificing their natural sheen and lustrous tone.

The waltz was elegant and graceful, though I would have loved it if the two harps had been positioned on either side of the orchestra instead of side by side: Leonard Slatkin does this on his recent recording and the results are wonderful (review). Tilson Thomas ensured that the waltz was moulded winningly, the music always light on its feet. There was much marvellously nuanced playing in a highly atmospheric account of the Scène aux champs. Here was poetry but always allied to expert technical control. I’ve heard some other conductors impart a touch more menace into the March au supplice, usually by adopting a slightly more deliberate tempo than was chosen here. The march was quick-ish but even if it lacked a degree of menace it was still powerfully projected.”     …

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Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph

Click here for full review

…     “The piece from Ives was actually risky in a different way. Entitled Alcotts, a   movement from the Concord Piano Sonata as orchestrated by Henry Brant, it   began with a modest flute solo, like a half-remembered folk-tune. Below, a   choir of clarinets cushioned the tune; above, strings floated like morning   mist. To capture that dewy immaculate sound and to still an audience into   rapt concentration at the beginning of a concert is a difficult feat, but   they pulled it off. A less showy opening to a tour would be hard to imagine. 

How effortful and busy John Adams’s recent Absolute Jest seemed in comparison.   Adams is at pains to explain that his piece, which makes a lot of hectic   play with scraps of Beethoven tossed between a solo string quartet and the   orchestra, is definitely not a joke. He means “jest” in the sense of the   Latin “gesta” meaning deeds or exploits. Now when a composer starts playing   with Beethoven’s sublime late quartets and burrowing into Latin   etymologies, he’s clearly making a bid for the high ground. You have to sit   up straight and pay attention.”     …

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “It was almost a magnificent Symphonie Fantastique. The ball scene was elegant with the orchestra’s high strings silkily seductive and the pastoral episode was illuminated by a beautifully- played duet of cor anglais and magically distanced oboe.

In the march to the scaffold, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas wisely refused to rush, giving the movement an atmosphere of grim inexorability. The witch’s sabbath cackled wickedly with some ripe and saucy wind playing, trenchant brass and an impressively thunderous timpani contribution which brought the evening’s loudest ovation.

But Thomas’s approach in the opening movement was too mellow and level-headed, not adjectives appropriate to Berlioz especially in this work, and instead of languorous despair and fervid elation we merely had meandering thoughts and slight pique.”     …

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony

Thumbnail    Pure Emotion

Wednesday 12 March 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Mikhail Tatarnikov  conductor

Peter Donohoe  piano

Mussorgsky: A Night on a Bare Mountain 12′

Dohnányi: Variations on a Nursery Song 25′

Rachmaninov: Symphony No. 2 55′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Think   Russian and you think epic. Rachmaninov’s Second is exactly that: a symphony   as grand and expansive as Russia itself, full-to-overflowing with some of the   most gorgeous love music ever written. It could have been written for our guest   conductor Mikhail Tatarnikov. And Dohnányi’s delightful Variations on a Nursery   Tune could have been written for today’s soloist – because our latest rediscovery   from 1913 demands both spectacular artistry and a cheeky sense of humour. Peter   Donohoe has both!

www.cbso.co.uk

“I love both Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 and Symphonic  Dances – come and hear some of the juiciest Cor Anglais parts in the repertoire!” (Rachael Pankhurst, Cor Anglais)

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Pictures at an Exhibition, Thursday   29 May

Thomas Adès: New Horizons, Wednesday   11 June

Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, Thursday   19 June

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post: (for same programme – matinee)

Click here for full review

…     “This is a gem of a piece, once heard never forgotten. Throughout the variations the composer pays affectionate homage to so many near-contemporaries, Wagner, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Franck and Reger among them, all the while giving every player in a huge orchestra so much to reward them, and putting demands on the soloist which require awesome technique as well as wit and warmth.

And Peter Donohoe has these in spades. His pianism coruscated with rippling chords and figuration, and encompassed both the innocent as he unfolded the trite little “Twinkle, twinkle little star” tune after Dohnanyi’s massively imposing orchestral build-up, and the joyously collaborative: the way he waited an age to resume after the solo bassoon’s outrageously prolonged paused note near the end was a comedy to behold.”     …

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Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     As I’d hoped and expected Donohoe was an ideal soloist. Tatarnikov set the scene well with a suitably dramatic and portentous unfolding of the big Introduction. The moment when the full orchestra breaks off and the soloist plays the Twinkle, twinkle, little star theme like a child’s five-finger exercise is still one of the best musical jokes, no matter how often one has heard it and it raised an audible laugh from the audience on this occasion. Having got that out of the way Donohoe proceeded to have fun! He brought virtuosity and humour to the performance and the orchestra backed him up splendidly with some razor-sharp playing. Among the moments that particularly stood out for me was the seventh variation, the waltz. If I remember correctly from when I took part in a performance many years ago, this variation is marked mit Schwung (‘with dash’); that’s how it came across here, with Tatarnikov getting the orchestra to inflect the waltz with fine sweep and vigour, matched by Donohoe. The enterprising colours of Dohnányi’s orchestration in the ninth variation – including growling bassoons and tinkling xylophone – were vividly achieved. The great passacaglia (Variation 10) was built impressively and then the concluding fugato was a delightful romp – not for the first time I was put in mind of Tom and Jerry by this music. Just before the end I really enjoyed the delightfully droll bassoon playing of Julian Roberts. This was a splendid and thoroughly enjoyable performance of this sparkling work: I hope we won’t have to wait 35 years to hear it again in Birmingham.”     …

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto

Thursday 6 March 2014 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra 

Michael Seal  conductor

Gabriela Montero  piano

Bizet / Shchedrin: Carmen Suite 25′

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 32′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 46′

Gabriela Montero’s encore – Improvisation on the theme Madonna’s Like a Virgin!

Shostakovich   staked his life on his Fifth Symphony – and you can tell. From angst-torn opening   to all-too-triumphant finish, there’s no symphony more powerful – or more personal    – than this musical response to Stalin’s terror. Under Michael Seal, it’ll strike   home with devastating power: a gripping contrast to Rachmaninov’s hugely popular   piano concerto (of Brief Encounter fame) and Shchedrin’s hilarious Carmen   suite, based on Bizet’s original. Imagine Bizet’s opera after a Smirnoff too   many – it’s as outrageous as it sounds!

www.cbso.co.uk

If you like this concert, you might also like:

Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, Wednesday   12th March

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Thursday   1st May

Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, Thursday   8th May

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Montero then offered to do an encore improvisation if an audience member could suggest a well known tune – and be prepared to sing it. Rather unexpectedly the suggestion was Madonna’s Like a Virgin which Montero then used as the basis for a short piece of lively piano composition.

There is no doubting Montero’s talent seen both in her mastery of Rachmaninov’s notoriously tricky concerto and her readiness to experiment with something so totally different.

Finally the orchestra gave full vent to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. Written during a time of great repression, an embattled Shostakovich hoped this symphony would keep him safe in Stalinist Russia – which explains why it is slightly more traditional than much of his other work.

It is certainly powerful and gave CBSO plenty of opportunity to flex its muscles – whether it be searing strings, a gentle harp or a good old crash of the cymbals and a bang of the drums.

CBSO and Michael Seal perform Shostakovich’s Fifth again on Saturday for a Tuned In Concert in which the music will be preceded by an illustrated talk on the work.”    

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Review by Jonathan Glen, BirminghamReview:

Click here for full review

“Tonight the Symphony Hall is witness to a duel between two great Russians. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is joined by Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriella Montero to take on Sergei Rachmaninov’s stirring 1901 Piano Concerto No. 2. It comes in stark contrast to Dmitri Shostakovich’s devastating 5th Symphony that rails against Josef Stalin’s oppressive regime during the 1940’s. But to prove there is at least variety in the CSBO’s repertoire, Shchedrin’s light-hearted take on Bizet’s Carmen is added to complete an eclectic night.

Michael Seal / www.michaelseal.com

Beginning with Bizet/Shchedrin, the sleepy, wistful opening soon gives way to Hispanic splendour. The piece exudes passion yet Shchedrin’s influence keeps the tone playful. Romantic themes unfurl, if only briefly, as this bombastic suite teases out the iconic moments from Bizet’s original.

Percussion is also key to this Latin affair, contributing significantly to the comical conclusion. Conductor Michael Seal is a man who seems to feel every moment of every movement but still finds time to jokingly goad his players, followed by reassuring smiles, to get exactly what he wants.”     …

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The suite from Carmen, Rodion Schedrin’s ballet score based on themes from Bizet’s opera was delightful. He uses only strings and a variety of percussion with amazing results – laugh-out-loud in places (like Malcolm Arnold’s musical jokes) but gorgeous in the divided strings of the Flower Song. Seal polished every musical episode until it glowed and hats off the to CBSO’s dextrous and versatile percussion section. Seal’s approach to Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony was direct, unfussy and immensely powerful – don’t worry about its alleged coded messages, just listen. The brassy finale was blistering while the largo was deftly handled with powerful yet restrained strings and everything illuminated by wind playing of great character. It was so good that I bought tickets for the repeat performance!”

Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra and John Lill

…Play Beethoven

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Sunday 2nd March, 7:30pm

Symphony Hall

Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra

Andrés Orozco-Estrada conductor

John Lill piano

Beethoven Symphony No 6, Pastoral 39’
Piano Concerto No 4 34’
Symphony No 5 31’

Orchestra’s encore – Johann Strauss – Polka Leichtes Blut

John Lill’s very personal relationship with the music of Beethoven is one of the marvels of the modern concert scene. So it’s wonderful that as he approaches his seventieth birthday he returns to Symphony Hall – where he famously played all five Beethoven concertos in 2004. It’s the centrepiece of a programme inspired by Beethoven’s own famous 1808 benefit concert – played by an orchestra with the Viennese tradition running in its very blood.

http://www.thsh.co.uk

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Review by Diane Parkes, BehindTheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Colombian conductor Andres Orozco-Estrada coaxed every nuance of Beethoven’s music out of the Vienna Tonkunstler, ensuring just the correct balance between dramatic overload and rippling melody.

To begin with, we had the mighty composer in playful mode with the Pastoral Symphony No 6. Its light-hearted frolics were deftly thrown into the air and then caught by the orchestra as they ricocheted back and forth between birdsong, country revels and the whole world of nature – including the powerful storm of movement IV.

John Lill then took his seat for the Piano Concerto No 4. One of today’s foremost pianists, Lill is internationally renowned for his skills with Beethoven concertos and this proved to be no exception. There were moments when the entire audience seemed to hold its breath waiting for the next key stroke while Lill also managed apparently effortless interplay with the orchestra.”     …

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The claim that the famous motto theme represents fate knocking at the door is spurious – but it surely deserved greater gravitas than it received here. The rest of the movement whizzed past in the same way: fast, slick and rather soulless.

The andante fared better, elegant and rather balletic and the basses impressed with their galumphing gruff humour in the trio. The scherzo wasn’t sufficiently edgy and sinister and so the impact of the finale’s transformation into blazing sunlit C major was diminished since what preceded it simply wasn’t weighty and dark enough.

Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony alternated between being becalmed, with a sometimes sluggish scene by the brook, and frenetically fast. The merrymaking peasants would need a dose of amphetamines to dance at that pace. Orozco-Estrada conjured up a convincing storm but the finale was devoid of spiritual uplift and we were offered the merely pretty instead.”     …

Brazilian Baroque: A Musical Eldorado

Part of Ex Cathedra Season 2013/14 and

Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Saturday 1st March

Town Hall

Ex Cathedra is a Town Hall Associate Artist

Ex Cathedra Choir and Baroque Orchestra

Jeffrey Skidmore conductor

Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra have done more than anyone else to uncover the vanished world of the South American Baroque: a lost civilisation of great choral music, sophisticated, passionate and intensely spiritual. Tonight’s programme introduces ravishing, almost unknown eighteenth-century music from Rio de Janeiro and the beautiful Baroque mining town of Ouro Preto: a musical Eldorado, restored to life with unmatched artistry and absolute commitment. www.thsh.co.uk

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Et tractatu sancti Augustini

Manuel Cardoso (1566 – 1650)  (from Manuscripto do Grupo de Mogi das Cruzes)

March in G

Francisco Gomes da Rocham(1745 – 1808)

Missa a oito vozes e instrumentos 

    André da Silva Gomes (1754 – 1844)

                Kirie – Moderato

                Christe – Andante

                Kirie II

Tercio 

José Joachim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita

                Padre nosso

                Ave Maria

                Gloria

Missa a oito vozes e instrumentos

                Gloria

                Et in terra pax

                Gloria

                Laudamus  – Amorozo

                Gratias – Largo

Beata Virgo (Divertimento Harmônica no 1) 

    Luís Álvares Pinto (c. 1719 – c.1789)

Lições de solfejo XXV 

     Luís Álvares Pinto

Missa a oito vozes e instrumentos

                Domine Deus – Allegro

                Qui Tollis – Tropo Afectuozo

                Quoniam – Largheto         

                Cum sancto spiritu

                                                                                                Interval

 

Matais de Incêndios Vv 1-4

     Manuscripto do Grupo de Mogi das Cruzes  (17thcentury)

Missa Pastoril para a noite de Natal

     José MaurÍcio Nunes Garcia (1767 – 1830)

                Kyrie – Andante sostenuto               

                Gloria – Allegro spirituoso

                Laudamus te – Andante

                Gratias agimus tibi – Andante sostenuto

                Qui tollis – Andante sostenuto

                Qui sedes – Andante sostenuto

                Cum sancto spiritu – Andante sostenuto

Ascendit Deus 

   Theodoro Cyro de Souza (1761 – ?)

Missa Pastoril

                Credo

                Et incaratus

                Crucifixus

                Et ressurexit

Matinas do Sábado Santo 

   José Joachim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita  (1746 – 1805)

               I Noturno Respnsório II – Jerusalem, surge

Missa Pastoril

     Sanctus

     Hosanna

     Benedictus – Andantino

     Agnus Dei – Andante sostenuto

Matais de Incêndios  Vv 5-8

Celebremos el niño 

     António Marques Lésbio (1639 -1709)

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Review by John Quinn, MusicWeb, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “Garcia’s music is thoroughly genial and relaxed; there was a genuinely pastoral feel about it and I liked the innocent charm with which he appeared to view Christmas Night.  The Kyrie had a Haydnesque feel to it; this was genuinely warm music. After the festive ‘Gloria’ there was a beguiling ‘Laudamus te’ for solo soprano which Katie Trethewey sang beautifully, supported by an ornate viola obbligato. She was one of no less than nine vocal soloists who made contributions during the Mass; all were excellent. Elizabeth Drury sang the florid, highly decorated ‘Qui sedes’ with a trio of male voices in support and a highlight of the performance was the duet between her and Katie Trethewey in the ‘Et incarnatus’. Here once more that delightful clarinet made its presence felt. The chorus work was no less impressive than it had been in the first half. Fittingly, for a Christmas Mass, the tone of the music was cheerful throughout. Garcia’s music may not have sounded serious but it was most certainly seriously composed; it was an accomplished and attractive work

 This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening even if the music didn’t quite have the feel of blazingly original discovery that one has had in previous Ex Cathedra programmes of this sort. This was more relaxed and, perhaps, less earthy music. No doubt part of the difference is also explained by the fact that much of this music was written a generation later. Nonetheless it was well worth hearing and it received splendid advocacy from Jeffrey Skidmore and his extremely skilled singers and instrumentalists. I doubt I shall ever have the chance to hear this music again – unless Ex Cathedra are able to record some of it – but I am very glad to have had the opportunity to do so. This consistently charming music warmed up a somewhat chilly evening in Birmingham.”

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Review by Katherine Dixson, BachTrack:

Click here for full review

…     “Essentially a choral ensemble, Ex Cathedra was joined by a small, specially assembled early music orchestra, led by Rodolfo Richter, who comes from Curitiba, where Skidmore had contributed to a Festival of Music during his Brazilian trip – a nice collaborative symmetry. Tonight’s programme, covering music from the early 17th to the early 19th centuries, centred around two Masses by significant composers, interspersed with shorter works in the liturgical gaps. The packed audience was captivated from the outset by Manuel Cardoso’s Et tractatu sancti Augustini, one of Brazil’s earliest surviving polyphony pieces. With a slow tempo and hypnotic waves of sound, a sextet at the heart of the oyster-shaped stage formation gently transported us with a feeling of calm, leading then to full choir. Minimal orchestral accompaniment in this piece, courtesy of the exotic looking theorbo, was contrasted with the instrumental March in G by Francisco Gomes da Rocha, which conjured up brash, carnivalesque marching bands on the Brazilian streets. A handful of musicians stationed separately in the balcony, above the rest of the company, delivered this number, then marched off. (Their work for the night wasn’t over, though, as they could be spotted and heard amongst their ground floor colleagues after the interval.)

One of the joys of listening to a choir as skilled as Ex Cathedra is the appreciation of the use of solo and ensemble singers from within their ranks. Tonight’s pieces called for that in spades, and there was corresponding movement around the stage as necessary, always perfectly choreographed and never intrusive. The first half’s main work, Missa a oito vozes e instrumentos by André da Silva Gomes, radical for its day, was further complicated by being written for two choirs with eight-voice fugues creating a very rich sound. Nor was the orchestration shy and retiring, trumpets emphasizing the sensation of full-blown praise in the Gloria, the atmosphere of the whole being spiritually uplifting. Exuberance was tempered by moments of calm, with lovely crunching harmonies, unanimous rests and a slowed pace, as Et in terra pax delivered moments of great peace.”     …

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Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “The other complete mass, Andre da Silva Gomes’ Mass for eight voices and instruments, was very different: richly textured, alternating two choirs, and with music by turns bold and assertive, the trumpets heralding the Gloria, or delicately persuasive as in the amoroso-styled Laudamus winningly sung by soprano Elizabeth Drury.

Skidmore ensured variety by interspersing a range of shorter items from Harmonic Diversions for organ; extracts from large-scale vocal works – Mesquita’s Jerusalem surges particularly impressive – and a lovely little March in G by da Rocha which had the childlike charm of Leopold Mozart’s Toy Symphony. Performances by orchestra, soloists, and the 50-strong choir, from which they were drawn, were excellent under Skidmore’s direction.”

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Review by John Allison, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “Two substantial Mass settings were threaded through the programme. The Missa a   oito vozes e instrumentos by André da Silva Gomes (1752-1844), a Lisbon-born   composer who was appointed to São Paulo’s cathedral, gains a certain   exuberance from prominent trumpet parts that would hardly be found in   equivalent European works, but otherwise it is hardly more adventurous than   Salieri on autopilot. 

Still, the eight-part fugue in the Kyrie had its moments, and the Quoniam was,   unusually, set for two tenors in duet. 

Most attractive of all was the music of José Maurício Nunes Garcìa (1767-1830),   the Rio-born mixed-race priest whose career flourished after the Portuguese   court transferred to Brazil in 1808. 

His Requiem,   written on the death of Queen Maria I, is considered his masterpiece,   but this concert showed that his Missa Pastoril para a noite de Natal is   captivating enough. A Christmas Mass, it captures something of the warmth of   a southern, sunny celebration, and its mixture of pungency and pastoralism   derives from the clarinet parts. 

Two other composers proved worth hearing. A handful of simple, devotional   pieces by José Joachim Emerico Lobo de Mesquita (1746-1805), who worked in   the gold-mining region around Ouro Preto, added guitar to the accompaniments   of strings and organ continuo.”     …