Prom 58: Gabrieli Consort & Players/ McCreesh, Royal Albert Hall

5.00

When the fiery chariot finally arrived to transport Elijah aloft and the antiphonal trumpets and drums and assorted ophicleides of Paul McCreesh’s mightily augmented Gabrieli Players Consort and Players were rent asunder by the open-stopped thrust of the Royal Albert Hall organ you suddenly realised why the Victorians became damp with ecstasy at the very mention of the prophet’s name.

Mendelssohn celebrated oratorio has long been at the top of the oratorio heap, beloved by choral societies up and down the land. As communal “sings” go, this one redefines the phrase full-throated and lends every conceivable opportunity for a choir or choirs to strut their stuff in numbers which run the gamut from Old Testament sternness to joyful affirmation. Fielding a Mahlerian sized orchestra full of period touches – like the aforementioned ophicleides (a kind of big vertical bugle) and a trio of serpents (distant ancestor of the tuba) – and a clutch of youth choirs buttressing the Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir, Paul McCreesh went all-out for the full Victorian monty in a hall (and a festival) which demanded nothing less - and from the moment that that startling cry of “Help, Lord!” went up from The People to rattle the Albert Hall’s acoustic discs those of a nervous disposition were given fair warning.

But “Victorian” though this performance was in scale and period detail its vitality and uplift had nothing whatever to do with the kind of Teutonic dead weight that the piece has acquired over the years. The wonder here was that so many voices could so cleanly articulate the exuberance of Mendelssohn’s choral writing. Familiar choruses like “Thanks be to God!” at the close of part one or “Be not afraid” at the start of part two, boasting pneumatic organ pedal work, were not just rousing in the best sense of the word but airy – a seeming contradiction of lightness and heft held in perfect accord.

There is, of course, wonderful textural variety in the piece with quartets and solo numbers making for intimate “asides” from the big gestures. And those tunes – each with a kind of Sullivanesque catchiness in the hook but blessed with Mendelssohnian discretion. Rosemary Joshua, Sarah Connolly, Robert Murray, and Simon Keenlyside all seized their moments in the light but it was the way that that light collectively shone forth that made this a night to remember.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup