30th November 2013

The Gloucestershire Echo
30th November 2013
Review by Allen Prior



Mendelssohn’s Elijah is a wonderful work, sprinkled with his trademark sumptuous melodies. It is anything but straightforward for the performers. However, last night’s concert in Cirencester Parish Church was a triumph.

The work calls for five soloists, one for each voice part plus a cameo treble part. Tim Burton excelled in the treble role with good diction and range of dynamics, particularly the last fortissimo!

Magdalena Molendowska (soprano), Grace Durham (alto) and Dominick Felix (tenor) are all at the Guildhall School of Music and gave strong performances, particularly Dominick whose diction and power were very impressive but all three sang with confidence and impact. Magdalena was very assured in the high range and Grace sang superbly in the quieter passages.

The key role is, obviously, that of Elijah and Alan Fairs showed us all his experience to give an assured and complete performance. It is so important to have a strong Elijah as the part holds the whole work together and Alan did not disappoint. Right from the beginning his attack was powerful; it is crucial to get the solo introduction that opens the work right and our Elijah really nailed it.

Corinium Camerata, under their leader Andrew Court, played with poise and supported all the singers well, although in the penultimate chorus, some of the brass overplayed and prevented us hearing the chorus rendition of Elijah’s ascent to heaven is his fiery chariot, which is a shame as this is one of the more thrilling passages. This should not detract, however, from a very confident and balanced performance.

Carleton Etherington conducted the concert with impressive control and looked supremely relaxed, although I feel sure he was a ball of energy underneath the calm exterior. He gives clear direction which is easy for the performers to follow and communicates very well, particularly with the chorus which is so important in the many complex passages with which Mendelssohn challenges the singers. It is a shame some of the singers in the chorus did not always watch Carleton sufficiently attentively and some passages lacked complete cohesion as a result.

Having just been slightly negative about the choir, it is important to stress that, overall, they gave a superb performance. This work has long and testing passages so the singers can be forgiven for sounding tired or lost at times. Cirencester Choral Society were neither tired nor lost! Rather they were committed and accurate; all four sections made an impact, although, strangely, the basses were sometimes a little quiet (a rare occurrence in SATB choirs!). The balance, however, was good and the overall impression was one of confidence and control.

A thoroughly enjoyable and very well attended concert where it was clear the audience had a very positive experience.