David Hill, music director of Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, clearly in his element marshalling large forces, produced a wonderfully clear and coherent performance. With Hill at the helm, every detail is transparent, every strand of orchestral or choral texture carefully delineated. That is not to imply his performances – although invariably meticulously balanced – are somehow lacking soul or atmosphere. Far from it, his finely nuanced reading of A Mass of Life created an atmosphere of grandeur and mystery that it is hard to imagine being bettered.
This venerable institution has had a spring in its collective step ever since David Hill was appointed as its music director. The choir now sounds younger and fresher, the blending and balancing of voices more refined.
A choir of some 130 voices might be substantially greater than the scale of forces nowadays favoured by many Bach interpreters but the tightness and discipline of this performance ensured that the larger body of singers did not compromise the clarity or flow of the work. Projection of the German text was excellent and Hill’s setting of tempi allowed his voices to colour their lines.
Leeds Philharmonic brought its refreshingly young sound along…. There was dynamic force for the big moments, but, in the hugely risky and complex double fugue at the Sanctus, this could have been a mere octet. And with the opening pianissimo – as well as the chanted Libera Me at the end of the piece – even a force this size showed, under Petrenko, that it could be sprightly and disciplined….I’ve heard this piece in venues worldwide by what have often been called the world’s best this or that. This Liverpool performance has got to be, for its sheer verve and dynamism as well as its spirituality, as good as it can get.
Working together, backed by an enlarged orchestra, the breadth of experience of the massed choirs ensured the depth of expression and sustaining of power needed to make the cataclysmic zero tolerance of Verdi’s Day of Judgement (Dies Irae) both theatrically terrifying and musically terrific. That meant that the tumult, when it came, even gave the impression that there was resource and energy still held in reserve, ensuring that the sound never became coarse. Equally, when quiet and penitence were required, the choirs’ ability to produce a hushed accompaniment to the quartet of soloists was just as telling.
The combined sound was so regulated, that when it came, it was never overstretched into a braying frenzy, but remained both refined and sustainable.No struggle then to create the most thrilling crescendo….But there was also simplicity, the Agnus Dei taking on the mantle of a monastic plainsong, while in the concluding and extended Libera Me, the threat of damnation is all the more sinister for being whispered …Rating: 9/10, Music to die for
Bring together the Leeds Festival and Philharmonic choruses augmented by the local St Peter’s Singers, and you could only sit back and be thrilled at Walton’s great choral showpiece. [The] tingle factor was in abundance from the choruses in a thrilling conclusion…
The undeniable zing of last Saturday’s performance gave to it a freshness and spontaneity that was breathtaking. Opera North music director Richard Farnes secured from his massed forces crystalline clarity of orchestral and vocal textures. Every word of the text was delivered with directness and immediacy. The whole thing was infused with tremendous, unrestrained theatrical energy and rythmic vitality…. With advocacy such as this, Belshazzar’s Feast seems destined to retain its status as one of the twentieth century’s great choral masterpieces.
When the Leeds Festival and Philharmonic Choruses come together, they form a choral group that would rival any in Europe, a fact that became abundantly clear in their performance of Elgar’s The Music Makers.
Producing a gorgeous sound, the large male contingent balancing the robust quality of the well-focused sopranos.
[Simon] Wright and his forces conveyed the grandeur and nobility of the Music Makers as vividly as they lifted the stabbing ferocity from the pages of Prokofiev’s score. The Festival and Philharmonic Choruses were called upon to display their versatility in this most challenging of double bills even to the extent of learning and mastering a complex Russian text.
The choirs’ attack was spine tingling and their declamation of the text riveting in its conviction and intensity.
David Hill, who manages to lead an astonishingly full professional musical schedule, is undoubtedly an inspiration to the Leeds Philharmonic Chorus whose musical director he became three years ago.
Their performance of John Rutter’s Requiem, in which Leeds Girls’ High School’s choir participated, reflected in every detail of balance and dynamic shading an impressive commitment to a simple and beautiful gift to the choral repertoire.