Prom 30: BBC Symphony Chorus/London Brass/Jackson, Royal Albert Hall
Monday 09 August 2010
Stephen Montague’s ‘Wilful Chants’ is a setting of primitive ululations, spells of sorcery, and Latin phrases wrapped in a shroud of synthetic liturgical cloth.
It’s a sceptical, socio-political, free-word-association rant: a wolf in ecclesiastical sheep’s clothing. Don’t take my word for this: I’m quoting verbatim from Montague’s programme-note. This piece, he added from the platform, was his revenge for the religion forced down his throat as a child.
Now if a chap can review his own composition so efficiently – every word was accurate – what’s the point of a critic? To react, and to evaluate. As the BBC Symphony Chorus plus London Brass delivered it, this work was by turns funny and very impressive, with unexpected moments of almost Verdian grandeur: ambitious choirs will doubtless queue up to perform it. But the odd thing is this: you could attach different words to it, and it could stand as a work of conventional devotion. Montague may be 67, but he might still mellow and want to make a peace-offering to the God he’s so joyfully maligned. He should therefore keep this score for re-use.
Thanks to intelligent planning, two other works in this programme – both inhabiting the same sound-world – pointed up the infantility of Montague’s scatter-gun approach to religion. Daniel-Lesur’s ‘Le cantique des cantiques’ – ‘Song of Songs’, or the Song of Solomon – dealt sweetly with a text which, with its dignified ideal of a love at once human and divine, has had a profounder effect on Sufism than it has on Christianity. But if that was a minor piece, Poulenc’s ‘Figure humaine’, which preceded it, is one of the twentieth century’s key choral works. And the way these versatile singers performed it, under Stephen Jackson’s direction, brought out the religious impulse underlying the political one.
Poulenc, who had rediscovered his Catholic faith on the eve of the Second World War, decided to set a poem sequence by Paul Eluard as a paean to liberty during the Nazi Occupation; he gave the honour of premiering it to the BBC Chorus, in recognition of the BBC’s support during France’s darkest days. The sweet-sour harmonies and kaleidoscopic musical impressionism – sometimes ragingly wild, sometimes of butterfly-wing delicacy – created some unforgettable effects.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw
Miley Cyrus concert banned on morality grounds in the Dominican Republic
The Hateful Eight trailer: Teaser for Quentin Tarantino film leaks early
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile