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Review: Little style in unfussy approach.

Byline: David Hart

Three Choirs Festival Worcester Cathedral

Three Choirs Festival audiences are an accommodating lot, except where modern music is concerned, so Andrew Nethsingha's first appearance on the conductor's rostrum was warmly welcomed.

Why not, you may ask? He brings considerable experience to his new post at Gloucester (he took over from David Briggs in May) and is capable of directing large forces with a fluid, attentive beat.

His unfussy approach to the works in Tuesday's concert - two Handel Coronation Anthems, Bach's Cantata No. 82 and Haydn's Nelson Mass - certainly allowed the music to speak for itself, but it did so without much personality or style.

Bach's Ich habe genug, the better known of his two cantatas for solo bass, was sensitively delivered by Michael George, apart from an occasional lack of definition to his low notes, and blessed by a wonderfully doleful, mellifluous obbligato from oboist Christopher Cowie in the opening aria. It was all dreamily beautiful and soporific in the soft-sheen sort of way Baroque purists absolutely hate.

Apart from the Philharmonia Orchestra's light and airy accompaniments, the Handel anthems were mostly dull affairs, sung by the Festival Chorus with little conviction or vitality.

Everyone seemed much happier with Haydn. Nethsingha's lively, though not hurried, tempi revealed much contrapuntal detail (In gloria Dei Patris was finely controlled) and the Festival Chorus responded with considerable enthusiasm and expressive articulation to this much-loved piece.

Emma Kirkby seized the moment to turn Et incarnatus est into an operatic love aria, while counter-tenor Robin Blaze made the Agnus Dei sound gloriously plangent.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 22, 2002
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