MacMillan: The Seven Last Words From The Cross
Exeter Cathedral, Friday 14 March 2008
Two works for Easter: one, Mozart's well-loved Requiem Mass, written as an anonymous commission, and unfinished on account of his untimely death. Later completed by Sussmayr, a pupil of Mozart's, it remains one of the most elegaic musical testaments to 'fragile mortality'.
The other, MacMillan's contemporary cantata, is a breathtakingly dramatic acount of the last hours of Christ on this earth, interweaving texts from the Gospels and the liturgy with voices and strings. It is a remarkable and stunning masterpiece of our time.
Review courtesy of The Express and Echo
Source: David Marston
USUALLY you start with the headline act. The crowd pleaser. The big name. Mozart's Requiem gives you all this and will guarantee an audience.
But I'll start with the James MacMillan, just as the concert did. Because although many of the people who snapped up tickets for this concert will have been keen to hear the Requiem, many will have been bowled over by the MacMillan.
It was a particularly appropriate piece in the build up to Holy Week, with the text based on the last seven sentences of Christ on the cross.
It's a stark, bleak, even uncomfortable work, with no chance of dozing off as the music washes over you. Certainly hairs rose on the back of my neck.
In the more-than-usually-helpful programme notes (a model of accessible and informative guidance!) we were warned that "this is not easy music - for the listener or the performer".
Judging by the looks of intense concentration of the faces of the 65 or so singers in this accomplished chorus it really was demanding, but maybe because of that challenge they pushed themselves on to a performance that both they and the audience will remember for all the right reasons.
Everybody seemed more relaxed for Mozart's Requiem with its melodic and at times even theatrical grandeur.
For this, the EFC and its accompanists the Sinfonietta were joined by a superb hand of guest soloists: Lesley-Jane Rogers (soprano); Catherine King (mezzo soprano); Richard Rowntree (tenor) and Haken Vramsmo (baritone).
Under the musical director, Nigel Perrin, the EFC is maintaining an impressively high standard. Watch out for it on June 7 at the Barnfield Theatre with Will Todd's Jazz Mass and again in the Exeter Festival on June 28 when the chorus will again be at Exeter Cathedral, this time with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, performing Verdi's Requiem.
Comments by Making Music SW Area Representative
Source: Carole Hossell
"I found the Seven Last Words from the Cross very moving, as did the audience around me. Some deep, deep bass voices such as can be found in a Russian choir would have enhanced this work, I believe, but what an electrifying start! And what a dramatic end to the second movement, and a truly stunning finale by the orchestra! The choir shone in the Mozart, as to be expected. The Kyrie was despatched efficiently and the runs were well controlled. The Lacrimosa was my favourite, sung beautifully. Congratulations on another stunning performance."
"Nigel Perrin has brought the Exeter Festival Chorus to a standard which enables them to charm their audience with their skill no matter what they sing."