Goldsmiths Choral Union, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Brian Wright
Royal Festival Hall, 16 October 2013
We may be moving rapidly towards autumn but this was an evening of joyous spring-like enthusiasm. Constant Lambert’s The Rio Grande is probably more familiar by reputation than by the number of live performances but made a fine curtain raiser, and one obviously relished by the choir. The changes of mood were deftly handled by Tom Poster at the piano, ranging from romantic indulgence to cutting edge jazz. Mezzo-soprano soloist Sophie Mansell sounded fine but from my seat she was completely lost behind the piano lid.
After the interval we were awash with Walton, wallowing in the delights of Belshazzar’s Feast.
Given the density of much of the writing, the opening is actually thinly scored and the solo baritone carries with ease, not that there was any difficulty with Njabulo Madlala’s ample tones. Some minor problems with entries from the choir did not detract from the overall impact and it was certainly a joyful noise.hazzar’s Feast. Having heard this most often in church or cathedral, it made a change to be able to hear far more of the text from the choir and experience the immediacy of the brass from the stage boxes.
Between these works, and in fine contrast, we heard Elgar’s cello concerto. As the earlier review shows, I heard Laura van der Heijden as soloist in the same work five days earlier in Maidstone. In the Royal Festival Hall, making her South Bank debut, the acoustic was more favourable and the lower range of the cello made greater impact. I was also more aware of the extended lyricism of her approach to the slow movement. The orchestral sound from the Royal Philharmonic created a wider palette of tonal support. In the final movement she creates impressive tension between the potential melancholy and the over-arching nobility of the score. She was very warmly received and I expect to see her here again soon. BH