Cheltenham Contemporary Concerts Festival, 6 December 2003

Gloucestershire Echo, 9 December 2003

Singers provide uplifting experience

The current season of Cheltenham Contemporary Concerts has been unusually varied. This time it was the turn of the Vasari Singers, an excellent chamber choir from London. Directed by Jeremy Backhouse, the singers performed a wonderful programme of short new pieces, together with two established classics of the 20th century choral repertoire.

The tone was set with their meticulous account of Totus Tuus by Gorecki, with which they began the concert.

With its tight control of phrasing and dynamics, this seemed to almost cast a spell upon us as we sat entranced listening to the repeated Marias which conclude the piece.

In an altogether different idiom, Rorate Coeli by Humphrey Clucas also seemed to produce a rather hypnotic effect. This was followed by two pieces by members of the choir. A setting of Psalm 25 by David Bray struck me as deeply serious in its intent but perhaps a little too eclectic in its wide-ranging compositional style.

A short anthem by Daniel Burges was more traditional and employed a rich palette of harmonic textures.

It was good to hear Pizzetti’s shamefully neglected Requiem setting of 1923. With such an obviously committed group of singers, it received the sort of performance it deserved.

The Vasari Singers were joined by organist Jeremy Filsell who wrestled with the somewhat clanky mechanism of the St Andrew’s organ to perform Kodaly’s Miss Brevis. This idiosyncratic and highly individual setting of the mass brought a wonderful evening’s singing to an exultant, wholly uplifting conclusion.

Alfred Lawrence

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