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Star performance

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: August 02, 2013

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GERAINT Bowen, director of music at Hereford Cathedral, mounted the conductor's rostrum to direct two works which marked musical turning points.

Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola was a great advance on his earlier violin concertos and the two soloists – Bojan Cicic (violin) and Pavlo Beznosiuk (viola) – gave a performance which demonstrated its orginality and depth.

They made their mark especially in the sombre slow movement lightening it with their exquisitely expressive playing and letting their hair down in the racy finale.

Many regard the Choral Symphony as the summit of Beethoven's musical achievement, and a good live performance like this helps one to understand how revolutionary the idea of using a choir in a symphony felt at the time.

There was an air of anticipation as Bowen built up the tension and tore into the vigorous opening theme.

This was a brave plan given the reverberant acoustic of the Cathedral, yet the strings and woodwind came over clearly, even if the brass and percussion sounded "muddy".

The Scherzo was taken at speed, a little too fast in the trio for some musicians.

But the tempo relaxed in the serene Adagio played by Florilegium with great expression and poise.

In the finale baritone David Stout had the daunting task of urging the others to sing joyfully, and succeeded magnificently, his clear voice carrying round the building.

Later he performed creditably in a vocal quartet with Camille Roberts, Rachael Lloyd and Gwyn Hughes Jones.

But the great strength of the performance was the Festival Chorus.

Casting their sheet music aside they sang out with accuracy and fervour taking complex fugal passages in their stride under Mr Bowen's watchful eye. This was a five star performance by any standard.

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