The Mozartists, Cleveland Watkiss, Choe Trio, Voces8 at Lichfield Festival - review
For sheer musical joy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is pretty hard to beat.
In a programme entitled ‘Mozart’s Travels’, The Mozartists ensemble took a delighted audience through many of the locations where Wolfgang Amadeus lived, composed, or performed: London, The Hague, Paris, Munich, Vienna, Prague and Rome.
Conducted at Lichfield Cathedral on Tuesday by Ian Page, and with four excellent soloists - soprano Louise Alder, harpist Oliver Wass, flautist Katy Bircher and horn player Gavin Edwards - the orchestra created a glorious sheen of sound on period instruments.
Such instruments can be genuinely historic, and centuries old, but most tend to be modern reproductions of early instruments, and are played in an historically authentic style, usually with little or no vibrato.
This can be a disadvantage at times, as in the balance between orchestra and soloist in the Concerto For Flute And Harp, as the sound of Katy Bircher’s wooden instrument - a far softer tone than the modern metal concert flute - was swamped at times by even the most sensitive accompaniment.
There were no such problems for Gavin Edwards, whose performance of the Horn Concerto was an absolute joy - with the third movement taken at a blistering pace, yet with perfect articulation.
Glorious singing, too, from Louise Alder in three superb arias.
The following evening, award-winning jazz singer Cleveland Watkiss entertained at St Mary’s with a tribute to the pioneering soulful crooner Nat King Cole - fine, imaginative singing in hits such as Nature Boy and It’s Only A Paper Moon, but it would have been a more engaging show if he had talked to the audience about Cole’s extraordinary life and works.
In a Thursday lunchtime concert, the young Choe Trio - violinist Marie Gilicel, pianist George Todica and cellist Jobine Siekman - impressed immensely in a dynamic performance at Wade Street Church with works by Lili Boulanger, Clara Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn.
It’s always a pleasure to hear the accapella choral group Voces8, whether in serious or light repertoire, and on Thursday their concert at the cathedral included both. Opening with works including pieces by the early composers Gibbons and Tallis, they swiftly moved on to classical repertoire with Rachmaninoff’s Bogoditse Devo, and a recent commission by the group by composer Alec Roth, Stargazer.
A real highlight was a commission by the festival for composer Jonathan Dove, entitled Vertue, and there was another sublime Dove work, In Beauty May I Walk.
Voces8 concluded their show with some delightful popular fare: Folk artist Kate Rusby’s Underneath The Stars, Van Morrison’s Moondance, and a firmly swinging encore, Duke Ellington’s It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.