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Review 10 May 2014

Faure: Requiem, Poulenc: Gloria, Ravel: Pavane pour une Infante Defunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess)

10 May 2014 at the Castle School

Once again The Castle School was the venue for Thornbury Choral Society’s Spring Concert and once again the audience was treated to a wonderful evening’s entertainment. The concert started with Thornbury Camerata, ably led by Katy Latham, performing Ravel’s evocative “Pavane pour une Infante Defunte”. Originally written for piano solo, the title chosen for the sound of the words, Ravel, a master of orchestration, reworked it for orchestra in 1910. Its beautiful melody, taken at a speed Ravel would have enjoyed, has a dreamy quality caught by the Camerata which, despite a few split horn notes, captured the imagination of the audience.

This was followed by Poulenc’s “Gloria”. Despite being part of the ordinary of the mass, Poulenc’s Gloria written between 1959 and 1960 is refreshingly up beat with some parts reminiscent of mid-century American musicals, and the singing from the choir matched this perfectly. Under the admirable conducting skills of Steven Kings, the choir made the music dance along in the opening two sections. The lovely soloist, Llio Evans, entranced with her expressive Domine Deus and Agnus Dei sections, interspersed by the choir’s spirited singing of the fourth section. The choir managed very well the contrasting final movement which started playfully and finished peacefully.

The second half of the concert was taken up with Faure’s well known “Requiem”. As an organist Faure had played for many funerals but in this piece he wanted to create something different, missing out some sections and adding others. The opening words set the scene of calmness and dignity with the choir singing movingly, with clear diction and attention to detail and to the conductor, building up with precision accompanying from the orchestra, to the 3rd movement. Llio Evans sang Pie Jesu with such feeling that the air was electric and this was followed by an equally stunning Libera Me sung by tenor Meilir Jones. I’m sure much more will be heard from these two talented young soloists. The silence at the end of the final movement In Paradisum was palpable as the audience savoured the dying last notes before giving the choir, soloist, orchestra and conductor a rousing round of applause.

On the surface the pieces chosen for the concert are linked by French composers writing in the late C19th & early C20th. However the choice of pieces raises the programme above the ordinary. Three pieces which aren’t quite what they seem: Ravel’s piece written not for a dead princess, Poulenc’s Gloria written with a sense of humour and Faure’s Requiem not following the usual Requiem pattern and in Faure’s words “dominated..by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest”. Another triumph for Thornbury Choral Society: don’t miss their next performance, Handel’s “Messiah”, on November 22nd.

Gill Holmes