Classical music review: Carillon concert

Alissa Firsova

Alissa Firsova - Credit: Archant

Versatility has long been one of the trademarks of St Albans-based chamber choir Carillon, and the programme for its Saturday concert demanded much of the members.

For while Johannes Brahms’ romantic Liebeslieder Waltzer meandered through the programme with piano accompaniment provided by Alissa Firsova and Simon Watterton, some outstanding a capella works were inserted between clutches of the movements.

And while the performance of the 18 brief romantic movements was good, it was the choir’s a capella singing as well as piano duets from Alissa and Simon which really grabbed my attention.

Mendelssohn’s Morgengebet was the first of the unaccompanied works and the choir’s performance was an absolute delight, but there was even better to come with Josef Rheinberger’s setting of a verse from Martin Luther’s German Bible.

Abendlied is completely spellbinding and Carillon’s performance matched the composition.

Rounding off the first half was a rousing performance of the Ballroom Scene from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugine Onegin.

In line with the dance theme which ran though much of the programme, Benjamin Britten’s choral dances from his opera Gloriana were the unaccompanied opening of the second half, with modern Amercan composer Eric Whitacre’s outstanding and extremely tricky Lux Aurumque completing the selection of a capella works.

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Conductor David Ireson, who is joining the choir for the rest of the season, has long been one of the guest conductors of Carillon and has achieved some remarkable performances with them.

In Lux Arumque he and the choir achieved the very high standard of tuning and complete togetherness which is needed for the work to be heard at its best.

The delight of the evening was completed with the two very fine piano duets performed by Alissa and Simon, both former students at the Purcell School who have gone on to develop international careers.

Their chosen works were Gabriel Fauré’s delightful Dolly suite, probably best known for its first movement Berceuse which was for many years the signature tune for Listen with Mother, and three movements from Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.