John Manning reviews St Albans Chamber Choir.
Music of the 20th century by such composers as Duruflé and Fauré did much to endear French music of that period to audiences in the UK but until Sunday night few in St Albans had heard of Alfred Desenclos.
Yet his Requiem Mass written in 1963, the main work in St Albans Chamber Choir’s concert in St Peter’s Church, was a real delight.
John Gibbons, the choir’s musical director, first heard the work in a BBC Radio 3 review of a new recording by a London choir and immediately decided he wanted to perform it.
The result was Sunday’s fine performance by the chamber choir accompanied by organist Martin Stacey, who had stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Christopher Cromar who was indisposed. The work is very French, and while not quite up to the standard of Duruflé or Fauré, is a welcome addition to the repertoire.
Hubert Parry’s Songs of Farewell opened the concert. Written during the latter years of World War One, they came at a time when the composer was depressed at the futility of the situation. The six songs are deeply moving, and the choir’s performance reflected the mood of the music.
For me the high spot of the evening was Sir Michael Tippett’s five spirituals from A Child of our Time. The five are choral gems and the choir’s performance was excellent, particularly the solo spots by unnamed members of the choir.
They opened the second half with the short song O Tod, wie bitter bist du by the Bavarian composer Max Reger.
Best known for his organ music, performances of Reger’s songs are something of a rarity and, for me something of a revelation for, I must admit, I generally find his organ works too heavy and loud for my taste.
The song, in contrast, exhibited a much lighter touch and the performance by the choir. My personal views of Reger’s music applies to Martin Stacey’s choice of his second solo, Reger’s Introduction and Passacaglia in D minor which followed the song.
But it has to be said his performance of the work and his earlier performance of Herbert Howells’ Master Tallis’ Testament proved his skill and artistry and also that he had great respect for St Peter’s Church’s powerful organ
Herts Advertiser, 1 March 2018