Berlioz at the Royal Albert Hall

The last time I visited the Royal Albert Hall it was for Mahler's 'Symphony of a Thousand'. Last Friday I heard another huge work there, Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts (Mass for the Dead). Though not requiring quite as large forces as the Mahler, it's still pretty massive, requiring a large choir, four brass ensembles placed in the upper levels of the hall, and a big orchestra including four tam-tams (gongs) and no less than ten tympanists, each with two drums. As you can imagine, when this lot is unleashed all at once during the Dies Irae the effect is pretty fearsome, and certainly very impressive.

However it's not loud all the way through! There are many quieter and affecting section, and the final Agnus Dei ends peacefully with the prayer for eternal rest.

The London Philharmonic Choir and the Goldsmiths Choral Union, the tenor Andrew Kennedy and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were conducted by Brian Wright. Occasionally the difficulties of marshalling such large forces showed itself in slight raggedness, but on the whole it was a maginificent and well-controlled performance.

An aside: it wasn't easy to see at the large distance involved, but there seemed to be rather few young faces in the choir (whereas the orchestra has quite a wide age range): does this mean that choirs are having difficulty involving younger people? And will this present problems in the future?

Click here to see a large version of the photo

Posted: Mon - October 30, 2006 at 09:07 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM