Review: English Chamber Orchestra and Festival Chorus, St Andrews Hall Norwich

If the Festival ended now I would be satisfied after Saturday's concert and standing out was the excerpt from Bellini's opera 'Il Pirato' with Italian soprano Carmen Giannattasio absolutely stunning. With seemingly effortless note placing, and superb technique her powerful but warm voice flashed with emotion in vocal thrills I have rarely heard in the hall.

The splendid ECO, exuberantly conducted by David Parry, gave full measure in pleading and colour to the drama of Beethoven's Egmont Overture followed by the European premiere of John Tavener's Little Ceremonial – with the composer listening and which he says goes nowhere. But it didn't. It led listeners through it's sound collage layers, particularly in the brass interjections.

Rossini's Stabat Mater brought more operatic singing with a generally well balanced solo quartet of Giannattasio, Ann-Marie Owens, Colin Lee and Andrew Foster-Williams. Orchestral joy set the tone for Lee's high tenor clarity, Foster-Williams's lyrical but authoratative baritone with Owens's Cavatina giving another dimension to her mezzo. And the final difficult quartet was only a shade away from being the work's spiritual heart.

The choir is relatively lightly used but chorus master Terry Edwards had installed a controlled discipline into their work to complete a memorable evening.

• NNF11 runs from May 6 to 21. You can book online at www.nnfestvial.org.uk/nnf11, by phone on 01603 766400 or at the Norwich Theatre Royal box office

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