Review: Hertfordshire Chorus’ ‘first class’ performance of Elgar’s The Kingdom at St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Cathedral - Credit: Archant

Hertfordshire Chorus performed Edward Elgar’s oratorio The Kingdom at St Albans Cathedral on Saturday night. John Manning reviews the concert.

Since its first performance in Birmingham in 1906, Elgar’s oratorio The Kingdom has divided audiences.

Many feel it is among the great composer’s finest works, while others find it over-composed and difficult to follow.

Even Elgar had his doubts, having twice considered abandoning it.

Having said that, the standard of performance of the work by the Hertfordshire Chorus at St Albans Cathedral on Saturday was first class.

The members demonstrated just what a well-drilled choir should be able to do.

It presented excellent diction and, under its musical director David Temple, presented fine colour and dynamics.

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Soloists, soprano Eleanor Dennis, mezzo Diana Moore, tenor Ben Johnson and bass James Platt, were well matched and added greatly to the overall success of the performance.

In particular, James Platt had one of the hardest jobs of the evening.

The bass roll of Peter is huge, but Mr Platt excelled in his delivery.

While the parts taken by the other three soloists might not have been as big, they each added greatly to the overall excellence of the performance.

The orchestral accompaniment was provided by the London Orchestra da Camera which, while providing a performance that was generally satisfactory, did fall into some of the traps presented by the quirky acoustic of St Albans Cathedral.

One of the classics which so often catches the unwary is that some instruments, such as timpani, need a gentler touch than in buildings with less resonance.

Overall Hertfordshire Chorus’s performance of The Kingdom was a great success.

Even though it was 90 minutes without a break, time flew and all those can be proud of their achievement.