EIF 2014: Collegium Vocale Gent & Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Usher Hall, Review

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Collegium Vocale Gent, Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Haydn, Missa in Angustiis ('Nelson' Mass); Bruckner, Ave Maria, Christus factus est, Os justi; Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms.
Phillippe Herreweghe (conductor), Sophie Bevan (soprano), Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Benjamin Hulett (tenor), Matthew Rose (bass).
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Haydn's Nelson Mass is full of surprises not least in its flamboyant soprano opening. Are we really listening to a religious setting of the Mass one might ask. And before long there's a powerful bass solo. Phillippe Herewegge had chosen his four soloist to bring out the best in a Mass setting written for the Esterházy Court. Napoleon's forces were getting closer and a Mass of deliverance from the enemy was appropriate and urgent. Sophie Bevan as soprano and Matthew Rose as bass voice were impressive. Their colleagues Sarah Connolly and Benjamin Hulett let their voices be heard too. Before long Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of the Nile had brought the victorious Admiral Nelson to the Esterházy Court and the Mass became his.

Collegium Vocale Gent was formed in 1970 at the University of Ghent by Phillippe Herrewghe. Forty five of the present generation had come to the Usher Hall. It was they, without the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, who sung three of Anton Bruckner's motets. Most of Bruckner's music is religious - he was a devout Roman Catholic. His Ave Maria is for seven parts and written in 1861 whilst Christus factus was written twenty three years later and expresses a soul in some anguish. The third, Os justi (The mouth of the just is exercised in wisdom) was composed in 1879 at the request of the movement named after St Cecilia, patron saint of musicians, and intended to improve church music at the time.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra returned but without violins, violas and clarinets for Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. In Scotland nowadays these are Psalms 38, 39 and 150 but with the texts from the 4th century vulgate and sung by Collegium Vocale Gent in Latin. Hardly recognisable to present day church goers but inspirational under Phillippe Herreweghe's baton.

Concert: Wednesday 20th August 2014 at 7.30pm