A Boy Was Born continued on Tuesday with the visit to Sheffield of another high-profile ensemble. While the space lacks intimacy, the sound tends to be warm and clear, and the Sacconi noticeably grew into it over the course of the evening.
Two pieces of Shostakovich opened the evening: working through matters of intonation, the group played a shimmering Elegy and a spirited Polka. Then, warming up, there followed Haydn’s Op 20 No 2 quartet, which although pleasingly full-bodied, quite rightly never became more than ‘late-classical’ in scale.
The main course was Britten’s Second Quartet. Here, especially in the epic Chacony, was an inexorable nervous energy. If anything, the quieter moments were grittier, more tense, than the strident loud passages.
At the close, the deliciously delayed resolution being played with presence and not a jot of unnecessary showmanship, it seemed that the genius of Britten was speaking to us directly, without intervention. Such moments maketh memories!
Sam Hiller Memorial Concert
St Marie’s Cathedral
Not having heard the Sheffield Cathedral Songmen before, I was blown away by the gorgeous sound they made.
Performed from a high platform at the side of the church, Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque created spine-tingling ethereal resonance
Directed by Neil Taylor, the Songmen also sang Tallis, Poulenc, Duruflé works, and beautiful though they undoubtedly were, the highlights of their singing were Ernest Walker’s I will lift up mine eyes and the Steal Away to Jesus arrangement.
The four young soloists, Laura Roberts, Rebecca Lambert, Hannah Thomson and Ella Taylor, were also worth hearing. They coped well with the huge acoustic and, in their selection of pieces, achieved beauty of tone in their individual voices, and variation in mood and dynamic.
Ben Horden accompanied the Songmen on the organ and Neil Taylor, the soloists on the piano with much amusement being caused by the perambulations back and forth between the two instruments of an essential portable lamp.