From Russia with Love, Cardiff University Chamber Choir, National Museum of Wales

April 16, 2019 by

Prior to a tour of China, Cardiff University Chamber Choir gave the grandest of concerts in a blockbuster line up of lesser known Italian and Russian court composers to Catherine the Great. There appeared to be a preference for Italian musicians to be commissioned in the Mother Land.

Here the choir members were given a great opportunities to show off their talents in the glorious acoustic of our National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, similar to the grand cathedrals of Russian, in resonating sound at least. I’ll confess I have not known of the music of Vedel, or Galuppi or even Sarti, but the feel for the Russian style of choral writing glows in their work, even if they were not native. This assimilation into the Russian aesthetic is a breathtaking feat of counterpoint and striking harmonies shared within each type of singer in the choir.

Conductor Peter Leech gave us all a great surprise and delight by opening the concert as cantor at the back of the hall. With a stirring baritone he arrived to his podium, as the choir found their way into the hall in a lovely little moment of theatre. Leech is a huge advocate of this type of music and his frequent introductions to the work were very welcome and extremely insightful. A highlight was the Santa speme from La Passione di Gesù Cristo by Giovanni Paisiello. With two female soloist from the choir and Robert Court on a miniature organ, the whole piece has an equate quality, easily making you pine to hear more of this divine music by Paisiello.

To cleanse the pallet, Court had occasional little solos throughout the concert. The performance there was very pleasant and the spirit of the instrument came alive in his able hands. A brief moment with him, in what appeared to be lost sheet music is a trivial sight in what was a resounding concert. I found the moments where the entire choir sang with stupendous force, with the great Russian influence thrown into each note, truly compelling. The moments after the full embrace of the choir left a wonderful resonating ringing in the air of the museum’s Great Hall, one of life’s great things really. As these musicians go on tour, one wonders who they’re going to astonish next.

A fine way to end the School of Music’s season of concerts.

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