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.
A mighty ovation greeted the première of Philip Wilby’s A Brontë Mass, commissioned by the Philharmonic Chorus.
It is a major addition to the English choral repertoire from a composer steeped in its history. It is more muscular and red-blooded than most works in the tradition and has integrity and clarity expressed economically.
It was beautifully performed by the Philharmonic Chorus under their musical director David Hill with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Leeds Town Hall audiences are not best known for their empathy towards anything composed in the last 50 years, so that the prolonged ovation that greeted the choral work, Harmonium, by the American composer, John Adams, must have surprised and delighted the combined Leeds Festival and Philharmonic choruses.
It had been a brave venture with the technical demands obviously requiring much detailed rehearsal, while the fact that they were for long periods harmonically contrasting with the orchestra was a severe test of their intonation.
They emerged wonderfully secure, unscathed and triumphant, the work’s long, quiet ending as absorbing as the many passages that required a shiver of excitement to race through the music.
…This concert marked David Hill’s first appearance as ‘the Phils’ music director; a post he occupies concurrently with the music directorships of the Bach Choir and St John’s College Cambridge. The members of his Leeds Choir are going to have a very fruitful relationship with their new conductor. This was abundantly clear to those of us who were able to witness the sheer pleasure on Hill’s face at the crisp and wounderfully expressive singing that he coaxed from his choir and the splendid Sheffield Philharmonics Chorus… The airy textures in the Requiems most well-known number, the consoling ‘How loverly are thy dwellings fair’ were a revelation. So too were the looks of enjoyment on the faces of the choirs as they sang it.
…the best sounds of all emerged from the choirs the Leeds and Sheffield Philharmonic Choruses singing with that soft, comforting tone …
The chorus [created] the tingle factor, launching into the Chorus of Demons
with suitable venom and pulling out all the stops as they came to that moment of crowning glory in Praise to the Holiest in the Height.
The Leeds chorus made a most impressive sound, exemplary in attack and quality of diction. The strain on sopranos is notorious in this work, but here they stuck to their task and were unstinting in the fortissimo passages.