Review of Ely Consort’s performance of Brahm’s Requiem in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 26th March 2011

From the time Matthew Rudd took over the directorship of Ely Consort in 2002, it has grown in numbers and stature. Under his astute directorship, the tonal quality, clarity and polish this group of fine singers has developed has become more and more remarkable.

In their performance on Saturday these qualities were particularly evident in the motet Beati quorum via by Charles Villiers Stanford. The harmonies were beautifully balanced and entries and closures of effortlessly sustained lines were precise but not too precise to damage the wonderful resonance that filled the presbytery in Ely Cathedral where the concert took place. The ranges of expression, changes of mood and the gradual development of tension, dynamics and climaxes were wonderfully crafted by this excellent conductor and these marvellous singers.

These qualities were also especially apparent in Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s Blessed be the God and Father, Justorum animae by Stanford and the opening and closing Selig sind …, in Brahm’s Requiem. The words ‘But the word of the Lord endureth forever’ in Wesley’s piece built to a most effective climax.

Two impressive soloists performed with the choir. Francis Brett (baritone), who in the early days of his career won a choral scholarship to King’s College Cambridge, and our Ely-based diva Catriona Clark (soprano) enhanced the evening with first rate performances. Francis sang Herr, lehre doch mich, the third movement of Brahm’s Requiem, with mesmerizing warmth and potency. His superb technique engendered a sense of effortlessness as he captured the expressiveness of the text exactly. His contribution to the sixth movement of the Requiem, Denn wir habern hie keine bleibende Statt, brought out significant words with special clarity and colour.

Catriona Clark sparkled with her light, vibrant and well focused tones. She featured in Wesley’s Blessed be the God and Father and Ihr habt nun traurigkeit from the Requiem. Her solos by Brahms contrasted well. The first Wie Melodien was charming and gentle with key notes clothed with expressive warmth and the second song by Brahms, The Vain Suit was in English and a highly entertaining moment of humour not always apparent in Brahm’s usual profound style.

Jonathan Lilley, assistant organist to Ely Cathedral, accompanied with his usual expertise. The smooth fingerwork and empathy with the Cathedral’s organ were particularly apparent in his solo Postlude in D minor, Op 105. No 6 by Stanford. The declarative rousing melodies and the softer interwoven textures were putty in this highly accomplished performer’s hands.

The Consort is undoubtedly one of the finest choral groups in the area and among many of their spine-chilling moments was their performance of Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras (For all flesh is as grass), the second movement of the Requiem as Matthew drew out the most sinister of sounds to complement the funeral-march of the organ. Matthew’s skill in moving smoothly from one mood to another, changing pace and texture was particularly noticeable.

This was indeed a splendid concert.

The next event by Ely Consort includes a performance of Walton’s Coronation Te Deum in their concert on Saturday 25th June 2011 in St. Andrew’s Church Sutton.

You might also be interested in other events advertised in the programme:

Stretham Feast concert, St. Jame’s Church, featuring Alternative Medicine and Guests on Friday 14th May 2011 at 7.30 p.m.

East Anglia Chamber Orchestra (EACHO) featuring music by Bach, Copland, Albinoni and Dvorak in Ely Cathedral on Sunday 3rd April 2011 at 5.15 p.m.

Cantate Jubilate with works by Tallis, Purcell, Byrd and Stopford at St. Margarets’ Church Chippenham, Cambs. on Saturday 9th April at 7.30 p.m.



Ely Cathedral Box Office, tel: 01353 660349


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