A big thank you to Paul-Ethan Bright for his below review of our concert in Truro Cathedral, on Saturday, 13th June (which also appeared in the West Briton). The programme consisted of Rachmaninov’s Bogoroditse Devo, conducted by James Orford; Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2, soloist Paul Comeau; and Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, with the four soloists joining us from Royal Academy of Music. Truro Choral Society Music Director Martin Palmer conducted the latter two items. (For our preview, published in the West Briton on 4th June, head here.)
“A rather introspective programme was presented by Truro Choral Society and Truro Symphony Orchestra, a Rachmaninov first half followed by Michael Tippett’s secular oratorio, A Child of Our Time.
“The choir opened with Bogoroditse Devo, the last movement of Rachmaninov’s famous Vespers, a setting of Ave Maria. This first item was conducted by Truro Cathedral’s organ scholar, James Orford, making his directorial debut. The chorus were supported by the string section, giving the sound an extra luminosity. Orford’s simple yet definite conducting allowed the music to speak for itself without any fussiness unbecoming of the piece, while the choir’s diction of the Russian text spoke well into the Cathedral acoustic.
“All change at the front for the second item, Rachmaninov’s C minor second Piano Concerto, as Martin Palmer took the stand alongside the soloist, Paul Comeau. While the second movement is probably the most familiar (a favourite of Classic FM Hall of Fame, no less), this performance showed us that the whole work is just as approachable – the opening Moderato: allegro finds the piano sounding out the deeps before the orchestra joins, more or less taking the spotlight away from the soloist before a majestic climax that restates the initial theme, taking us to the sparkling cadenza. Comeau was surely in his element here, at turns deftly maintaining his part in the orchestral texture, before blazes of sheer virtuosity, relayed throughout the Cathedral via the cameras so those further back wouldn’t miss out – a real delight!
“The second movement, the Adagio sostenuto, was a super-smooth episode of pure romantic relaxation, with eloquent solos from flute and clarinet. The finale, the Allegro scherzando, allowed for more dramatic elements to surface, balanced by the lyricism of the orchestral woodwinds, before building tension considerably to the final cadenza – Comeau once again holding the attention of the entire Cathedral.
“What elevated this performance, for me, was not just Comeau’s undeniably sublime playing, or Palmer’s well-mannered and sympathetic conducting, but the communication between the two of them, giving the concerto a calm, collected air. A rousing ovation followed, with plenty of well-deserved cheers for Comeau, a real local hero on Truro’s musical scene.
“As the programme reminded us, A Child of Our Time ‘…can never be comfortable’; a deeply personal statement by the composer conceived as a musical protest. The atmosphere was electric from the opening chords, with Palmer’s clear direction inspiring the choir to come in confidently on some exceptionally difficult leads. The young team of soloists added to the mood, their voices commanding in their own right, yet blending well when together. The five Negro Spirituals were particularly moving, Steal Away as a stand-out triumph, with a beautiful, sustained tone from the soprano soloist.
“While this concert’s programme was more inward-looking than one might usually expect from Truro Choral Society, they acquitted themselves with a dignity befitting the music during another evening of exciting music making.”
In addition, we received these kind words from Michael Galsworthy, President of Truro Choral Society, in the week following the concert:
“I greatly enjoyed the TCS concert on Saturday evening and thank you so much for introducing me to the choir members beforehand. As I said, I count it a great privilege to be the TCS President and will continue to support as many concerts as I can when I am not in London.
“In the meantime, my warmest congratulations to the TCS for the performance of the Rachmaninov Bogoroditse Devo and also Tippett’s A Child of Our Time. I thought the performance of the Rachmaninov piece was really excellent and delivered with great sensitivity. The Tippett is of course both complex and, from a singer’s point of view, more demanding, but again my congratulations to everyone for their performance.”