Review: War Requiem at Portsmouth Guildhall

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What better way to remember war victims and mark Benjamin Britten’s centenary than by performing his War Requiem?

And how better to perform it than with a fine balance between the dramatic and prayerful?

This was most evident in the singing of James Oxley, ardent yet cleanly lyrical and a far cry from the idiosyncratic style of Britten’s chosen tenor Peter Pears.

Indeed, phrasing and colouring were finely-tuned to words throughout this mighty collaboration between Portsmouth Choral Union and Portsmouth Grammar School with choristers from the Anglican cathedral and St John’s College, Southsea.

PCU’s David Gostick was the overall conductor, helped by David Price (from the cathedral) with the choristers in the balcony and by Sam Gladstone (PGS) with the chamber section of the excellent Southern Pro Musica.

Oxley was especially moving in settings of war poems by Wilfred Owen and was matched by soprano soloist Elizabeth Meister, who was emotionally strong in Libera Me, and outstanding young baritone Duncan Rock.

The massed choirs filled the Guildhall with musical conviction.