Faure returns to non-operatic basics

A library picture of Portdmouth Festival Choir as they practise in City of Portsmouth Girls' School - with Andrew Cleary conducting

A library picture of Portdmouth Festival Choir as they practise in City of Portsmouth Girls' School - with Andrew Cleary conducting

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Three short, less familiar choral works plus an idiosyncratic instrumental offering made up the first half of the successful concert by Portsmouth Festival Choir.

The principal work, in the second half of the programme, was the much-loved Requiem mass setting by Gabriel Fauré in which soprano soloist Abbi Temple gave a gratifyingly non-operatic account of the Pie Jesu.

Jake Muffett was the authoritative baritone soloist; and an ensemble of strings with horns, drums, organ and harp accompanied the choir in a version of the orchestration that comes nearest to Fauré’s original intention.

In drawing out the warm tone of the choir, Peter Allwood effectively emphasised the contemplative and essentially devotional aspects of the work.

The evening opened with César Franck’s celebratory setting of Psalm 150 (sung in French) with its jubilant Hallelujahs.

Claude Debussy’s Danse Sacrée et Danse Profane put the spotlight on impressive harp soloist Gwenllian Llyr, who stood in at short notice.

Fauré’s charming – and unjustly neglected – Messe Basse for female voices and the Saint-Saëns setting of Quam Dilecta, which featured Peter Allwood’s own very effective orchestration, completed the evening.

CHRISTOPHER BURGESS

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