MUSIC / Northern Sinfonia - Durham Cathedral

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The 'Advent for Europe' celebration in Durham Cathedral on Tuesday coincided with the first appearance of Barry Tuckwell as principal guest conductor of the Northern Sinfonia and consisted of a collage of musical items interspersed with readings in English, French and Italian. The surrealistic choice of music suggested the involvement of politicians and diplomats rather than professional programme-planners. There was something for all the family - Classic FM without the commercials.

Beethoven's overture The Consecration of the House was an apt opener, the detached articulation of the strings compensating for the reverberant acoustic, although the trumpet fanfares in the introduction were overbalanced by the chords which punctuate them. In two songs from Berlioz's Les Nuits d'ete, Janice Watson ranged from passion to reticence, even accomplishing the low G flat in 'Sur les lagunes'. The Sinfonia Chorus sang two Russian anthems by Tchaikovsky, powerful in their very simplicity; and if they forced the tone at times, they had plenty in reserve for pushing Parry's Blest Pair of Sirens through the orchestra later.

The Cathedral Choir sang Christmas music and the event concluded with a prestissimo account of the Hallelujah Chorus. For which, like George II, the audience stood.