Review: Portsmouth Festival Choir, Portsmouth Cathedral

Victor Ariat

Smooth sailing for Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth Guildhall

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The arrangement of the Brahms Requiem for piano duo and timpani instead of orchestra is valuable in making the work accessible to a medium-sized chorus - but significantly reduces the music’s drama.

Peter Allwood, Portsmouth Festival Choir’s conductor, sometimes set swifter tempi than he otherwise might, in ‘Behold all flesh’ and especially in ‘How lovely are thy dwellings’ where consolation was in short supply. Some fugal passages needed more clarity, too.

But these are perhaps harsh criticisms of a performance that was not only meticulously prepared in many aspects but distinguished by soprano soloist Natasha Day’s pure yet richly comforting ‘Ye now have sorrow.’ The baritone soloist, by contrast, seemed to strive almost too hard for dramatic effect.

The Requiem was preceded by a selection of the same composer’s Love-Song Waltzes. Here some of the enunciation was so vague that it was not immediately clear that the singing was in English rather than German, and the words sometimes had more generalised romantic ardour than specific expressive colouring.

This choir can, and certainly will, do much better.