Prom 23, 25 and 26 - review

 

In death John Tavener casts a long shadow: the hall was impressively full for the premiere of his posthumous Requiem Fragments given by the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips, the Heath Quartet, trombonists Barry Clements and Roger Harvey, and soprano Carolyn Sampson.

Its contours were softer and warmer than those of his Ikon of Light which began the concert, and its canon-writing was more intricate, but the effect was the same – an intense and yearning stillness. If the Lights Out sententiousness which rounded things off – with Sam West intoning ‘For those who die as cattle’ – fell dismally flat, that was because the slaughter in people’s minds was in Gaza rather than in the mists of the Somme.

Sampson’s angelic purity of tone was ideally suited to Tavener’s music, as it was to her role as soloist in the Mozart Requiem presented by the National Youth Choir of Scotland and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Donald Runnicles. But the real thrill of that concert lay in the choir itself: I have seldom heard the Requiem delivered with such sensational attack and vibrancy. Meanwhile the European Union Youth Orchestra plus London Voices under Vasily Petrenko’s direction made a brave stab at Berio’s Sinfonia – the most daunting collage in the modernist canon – and they delivered Shostakovich’s strenuously embattled Fourth Symphony with noble fortitude.

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