Double taste of Paris at concert

The annual visit of Polyphony to Norwich Cathedral as part of the Britten Sinfonia's residency is on Friday April 13 (7.30pm).

The annual visit of Polyphony to Norwich Cathedral as part of the Britten Sinfonia's residency is on Friday April 13 (7.30pm). Directed by Stephen Layton, they'll perform an attractive programme of Poulenc and Messiaen and will be joined by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, and soprano Susan Gritton, a singer of international standing who won the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Prize in 1994. But before she took up her chosen career she studied botany at Oxford and London universities.

The music world is fortunate to have such a singer who's at home either on the concert platform or on the stage. She appears in opera houses the world over and made her debut as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro at Glyndebourne, subsequently returning to play Susanna and Zerlina and also Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring. Most recently, she took the title role in Peter Sellars' production of Handel's Theodora.

In concert, recent highlights include appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, both under Sir Simon Rattle. She has also performed with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, London Symphony, BBC Symphony, the Hallé Orchestra and the English Concert, under such conductors as Sir Andrew Davis, Kent Nagano and Trevor Pinnock. She made her US concert debut four years ago with the New York Philharmonic under Sir Colin Davis.

The main work in the programme - a performance of Poulenc's Gloria (dating from 1959) - is always a treat and begins with the majestic Latin words of Gloria in Excelsis Deo, opening with a vibrant motif for the brass before the choir takes flight in short bursts of gradually-intensifying praise. At times, it gestures towards the more austere sounds of Poulenc's earlier religious works.


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Three other works by Poulenc will be heard - Quatre motets pour un temps de penitence (1939) and the two anthems Exultate Deo and Salve Regina.

Complementing Poulenc's works is a piece by another Parisian composer of the same generation: Olivier Messiaen's lively orchestral suite Les offrandes oubliées (dating from 1930).

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The title translates as 'The Forgotten Offerings'. Messiaen's public debut came in 1931 at the age of 23 with this work, a symphonic poem in three parts that plays upon religious symbology.

Like Poulenc, Messiaen's style is a complex mixture of numerous musical sources, with Berlioz, Liszt and Debussy and, of course, Stravinsky, all playing a part in his musical language. But once again the product is startlingly original, contrasting moments of extreme savagery (Stravinsky) with gestures of exquisite celestial beauty (Debussy).

Tickets £25 to £7, concs £5 any seat, available from Norwich Theatre Royal box office on 01603 630000.

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