An Italian Christmas, Norwich

MICHAEL DRAKE 'Tis the season to be merry and the BBC Singers' and Britten Sinfonia's contribution was certainly in that vein and shared with a wider audience on Radio 3.

MICHAEL DRAKE

'Tis the season to be merry and at last evening's Mills and Reeve-sponsored celebration at St Andrew's Hall, the BBC Singers' and Britten Sinfonia's contribution was certainly in that vein and shared with a wider audience on Radio 3.

Conducted by Nicholas Cleobury, the Sinfonia (leader Pauline Lowbury) caught the mood in a snowflake-light opening to Corelli's Christmas Concerto where the strings were the epitome of artistry – even though the dry acoustic made the concerto grosso format rather remote.

This to an extent carried over into Respighi's Lauda per la Nativita, although here soloists were transparently clear over an ethereal Chorus and half a dozen woodwind instrumentalists – all as if coming from heaven itself until all forces became more of this world in the Gloria.

Still far removed from the Pines of Rome, the same composer's Three Botticelli Pictures were in turn impatient, searching and a spiritual colourwash of sound and the sinfonia showed once again that it is one of the best in the business for versatility of mood.

Both they and the BBC Singers' and their soloists then crafted a performance of Vivaldi's Gloria in D of impeccable dynamic control – though I must single out the second movement, Et in terra pax, as being quite exquisite in mood and execution.

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