Review: Remembrance concert, Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral

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Jonathan Dove’s new work, commissioned for Remembrance Sunday by Portsmouth Grammar School, proved not only approachable but arresting from start to finish.

Marking the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, it sets poems by writers of the time including not only the familiar Wilfred Owen but lesser-known figures such as Isaac Rosenburg. His Dead Man’s Dump forms a large-scale centrepiece that is desperate, searing and memorable.

The music is potent in its use of children’s voices, with the excellent Castle Primary School choir from Portchester offsetting the more mature but still aptly youthful PGS Chamber Choir, supremely well-drilled and rich in character.

Baritone soloist Nicholas Sharratt provided personal drama, and the whole work was underpinned by the powerful London Mozart Players under Nicholas Cleobury’s direction. Brass and percussion are used with timely power, but much of the more restrained writing – for solo cello for example – is equally moving.

The occasion’s other highlight was PGS pupil Phoebe Pexton’s performance of German composer Carl Reinecke’s Flute Concerto. Her fine breath control enabled her to draw out all the pathos of the slow movement.