Review - 10 December 2016

Brilliant Beethoven

Bridgwater Choral Society under their conductor Iain Cooper presented a superb evening of music by Beethoven last Saturday in the Church of St Andrew, Stogursey. The concert got off to an energetic start with the overture ‘Die Geschopfe des Prometheus’ (The Creatures of Prometheus) written by Beethoven in 1801. This was given a fine performance by the orchestra under their leader Brigid Kirkland-Wilson with great sparkle from the strings in their many fast scalic passages. The piece was performed with good forward movement whilst maintaining a well-controlled clarity.

The second item of the evening Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia, was a more unusual piece, in the sense of the work featuring piano, orchestra and choir with the piano and orchestra very much working in conversation with each other and the choir featuring in the latter part of the work in a more subsidiary role. The piece takes the form of a theme and variations with the main melody bearing some resemblance to Beethoven’s famous ‘Ode to Joy’ melody used in his 9th Symphony. The Pianist, Raya Kostova gave a brilliant performance demonstrating both virtuosic excitement in the “concerto-esque” moments and sympathetic blend to the ensemble in the passages with orchestra. Her execution of many extended trills was stunning and delivered with apparent effortlessness. The choral section in the latter part of the work added warmth and colour to the piece, however due to the positioning of the choir, sadly the orchestra slightly over-powered the voices and a greater impact from the vocal passages would have been desirable. Nevertheless a most enjoyable performance.

The final work of the programme was the Mass in C. This was performed to a very high standard and the excellent lyrical singing in the opening Kyrie set the tone for the whole work which flowed beautifully from movement to movement. The Gloria showed excellent contrast in dynamics and good control in the fugue section. The soloists who contribute to all but one of the movements came into their own in the quartet passages in the Credo and gave a rich, warm sound. This was followed by the Sanctus which features just the chorus. This was sung with a lightness of touch and beautiful phrasing, really showing the Society’s attention to detail and blend. The Benedictus and Agnus Dei brought the work to a satisfying conclusion and much appreciative and well deserved applause from the audience. Congratulations to all.

Frances Webb.