Psalms and piano at the QEH
ot just psalms, but two works setting texts from the Book of Psalms, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir yesterday evening at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Handel's Dixit Dominus is an extended setting of the Latin text of Psalm 109 (Psalm 110 in the English Bible) for choir, five soloists, and string orchestra plus harpsichord, chamber organ, and, unusually, lute. Written in 1707 in Rome, when Handel was 22, it is a mature, complex work, making considerable demands on the choir and soloists with the intricacy of the polyphonic scoring. One of the soloists is a counter-tenor (effectively singing in falsetto): in this case Iestyn Davies whose voice was more like a mezzo-soprano and had less of the rather strangulated sound produced by many counter-tenors.
Separating the choral works was Mozart's 21st Piano Concert, played by Daniel Gortler. I've commented before on my reservations about Mozart played on a modern nine-foot concert grand, but after a very slight amount of raggedness in the first movement the soloist settled into a very light and clear style, making the best of the instrument.
The final work was Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, composed in 1965 for the Southern Cathedrals Festival at Chichester Cathedral: it uses texts from several Psalms, in particular 100, 23 and 131, plus lines from several others, all sung in the original Hebrew: not easy for the choir or the young treble soloist (Christopher Sladdin), who sang Psalm 23 with a confident and rich tone. After the Stravinskian opening chords the work is recognizably by the Bernstein of West Side Story (indeed part of the central section is based on material dropped from the show before the premiere) - syncopated and often forceful, with a large percussion section. It ends quietly, with complex harmonies from the choir, with words as applicable to the Britain of today as the Israel of the far past:
Behold how good
And how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell
Together in unity.
Posted: Sat - January 13, 2007 at 10:03 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM