Classical review: Madrigal ’75 / Choral Festival

City Hall, Cork

****

The band of the First Southern Brigade created a pleasing atmosphere for the audience as they assembled for the gala opening concert of the Cork International Choral Festival.

As we have come to expect from festival director John Fitzpatrick, this year’s concert was once again very different from those of previous years.

The charming presenter, Elmarie Mawe, dispelled any mystery regarding the concert’s title, ‘Music of the Baroque’, introducing the composers, Vivaldi, Telemann, Monteverdi, Purcell, and Handel, as if she knew them personally.

A magnificent performance of Vivaldi’s well-loved ‘Gloria’, performed by Deirdre Moynihan (soprano), Bridget Knowles (mezzo), Madrigal ’75, and Cork Baroque Orchestra opened the programme under the direction of conductor, James Taylor.

The joyous opening chorus, with its lovely use of swell and sense of line, gave promise of even better to come. The well-balanced, soprano/mezzo duet, ‘Laudamus Te’, led to beautifully-toned tenors, followed by another gorgeous soprano/oboe duet, and a most intense alto ‘Domine Deus’ and heartfelt ‘Miserere’. Throughout, the orchestral playing was crisp and supportive. I was particularly impressed by the trumpet and oboe playing of Vivienne Johnston and Diego Nadra.

Marja Gaynor was the brilliant soloist in Telemann’s ‘Violin Concerto in A’, making light of the technically awkward bariolage that give it the nickname ‘Die Relinge’ (Frog) and finding the joy in this delightful work. The choral discipline of Madrigal ’75 in Monteverdi’s ‘Beatus Vir’ was quite magnificent.

After the interval, Marja and Claire Duff (violin) delighted us in two Chaconnes) by Purcell. In Purcell’s songs, Deirdre Moynihan showed a wonderful awareness of the composer’s word painting.

Handel’s technically demanding ‘Dixit Dominus’, involving everybody onstage, matched in excellence all that we heard throughout the evening.

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