An outstanding account of Britten’s multi-layered, titanic plea for peace and reconciliation from the Sheffield Oratorio Chorus and its music director Alan Eost at Sheffield Cathedral.
A hugely augmented Northern Chamber Orchestra with, off left in St George’s Chapel the actual chamber ensemble Britten called for, turned in absolutely superb playing and added in no small measure to the overall success of the performance.
It would nonsense to pretend all was perfect. Chorally, shortcomings surfaced every so often with a lack of projection in quiet passages. Vocal lines may be hushed but they still need projecting and it was patently obvious that the chorus was able to do it.
Viz. Pie Jesu Domine at the end of the Dies Irae was magically wrought – with word clarity, too!
Near-perpetual niggle out of the way, often stunning singing from the Oratorio Chorus left no better example than the Sanctus/ Benedictus section with the soprano soloist off-stage – a clever piece of stage management!
Laura Mitchell, the soprano, was magnificent and shirked nothing given that she does not have a dramatic soprano voice which Britten wrote the music for. Be that as it may, a rock-steady, firm technique meant she got all the notes, and gave them full value!
Mark Wilde tended to blow a little hot and cold when it came to clarity of diction in the tenor’s music, being at his best singing Owen’s words in the Agnus Dei
He also generally stood up well when singing with ‘fellow soldier’ Ross Ramgobin, an expressive young baritone with a voice of true quality if ever there was one.
Alan Eost’s architectural grasp of the score was wholly admirable and the transitions between the three performing levels, Neil Taylor directing the chamber orchestra and Joshua Hales the Sheffield Cathedral Choristers (children’s voices), were impeccably smooth throughout.