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Mostly Mozart : Haydn, Symphony no. 44 in E minor, ‘Trauer’   Mozart, Requiem. Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Mostly Mozart Festival Chorus, cond. Douglas Boyd. Barbican Hall, 29. 07. 2006.  (ME)



This was the final concert in a series which has played to nearly full houses despite the concurrent attraction of the Proms: one must say that even though one has to journey out to this ghastly hell hole of a building, at least the air conditioning functions once within the hall, and this has to be an advantage when compared to the sauna that is the RAH. The Academy was directed here by a conductor new to me, but with an already illustrious career with many of the top chamber orchestras here and overseas. His is a muscular, unsentimental approach, at times at odds with the music.


Haydn’s ‘Trauer’ Symphony is generally thought of as ‘untypical’ of the composer in its ruggedness and lack of geniality, and Boyd certainly emphasised these points, bringing out the angularity and passion of the music and downplaying its lyrical and tender qualities. One was hardly aware of the Adagio being thus delineated, since it was performed as a fairly brisk movement: if the orchestra who played it at Haydn’s own funeral, at his request, had played it at this tempo I’m sure the pallbearers would have dropped the coffin.


Mozart’s Requiem seems to have become the standard work with which to end Festivals such as this one, and this performance of it was reliably scrupulous if hardly earth-shattering. The Chorus gave a rousing ‘Et lux perpetua’ and a highly dramatic ‘Confutatis’ although the diction in some of the ‘Hostias’ became woolly under pressure. The four soloists were an evenly matched quartet, although I’m sure most eyes were on the soprano Kate Royal, dressed as though she were not singing a Requiem but appearing on the red carpet prior to presenting someone with an Oscar for Best Supporting Something. Hers is a pretty voice, without any special character but with a good reliable middle, and her great distinctions are her serene confidence and polish, and of course those looks – a cross between a Head Girl, a Greek Goddess and a beautiful version of Angelina Jolie. Anna Stéphany, James Gilchrist and Andrew Foster-Williams could hardly compete in that department, but their singing was equally fluent and expressive.


The Academy seems to have become a livelier band of late, following a rather dull period, and the strings in particular sounded beautifully burnished in tone. This was a fitting end to a highly successful festival, and the superb fireworks on the lakeside terrace afterwards almost persuaded you that the Barbican is a pleasurable place to visit.




Melanie Eskenazi 


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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)