MUSIC / LSO / Hickox - Barbican Hall

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The Independent Culture
Both Tippett's oratorio A Child of Our Time and Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess declare their composers' identification with the down-trodden and the oppressed by borrowing musical symbols from black culture - rather surprisingly so in the case of Tippett, whose use of spirituals paralleling Bach's of Lutheran chorales, although by now a locus classicus, still sounds movingly fresh.

Programmed together by the LSO under Richard Hickox, the works complemented each other movingly: a powerful sequence of excerpts from the opera, superbly sung by Cynthia Haymon, Cynthia Clarey, Damon Evans and Willard White, perfectly prepared us for Tippett's more oblique relationship to the black experience.

The combination of black soloists (Haymon especially impressive when floating ecstatically in high phrases) and white chorus (the London Symphony Chorus in passionate form) underlined the work's mixed cultural provenance, and Hickox welded his forces into an impressively communal act.

The oratorio's progress through a world of oppression and dark despair to areas of hope and renewal was shaped with a shared devotional fervour. As always, when given with commitment, Tippett's music generated a power and humanity that swept all thoughts of unevenness aside.