CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norwich Philharmonic at St Andrew's Hall
Gallantly resisting the lure of an easy, well known choice, the Norwich Philharmonic under David Dunnett earned the gratitude of music lovers with Elgar's The Kingdom.
This oratorio is less familiar than Gerontius, less sharply focussed and cannot rise to its climax in one great tune. All the same, there is power, even grandeur, in its reflections of religious feelings.
The orchestra had splendid opportunities with episodes from early parts of the Acts of the Apostles. The overture, extended and animated, created an impression of the emotional tumult of Christ's followers after the Crucifixion. At the end, the calmer instrumental conclusion showed anguish changed to understanding and thanksgiving.
In the role of St Peter, baritone Robert Rice rose to authority, and, as the Virgin Mary, soprano Claire Seaton maintained impressive steadiness of tone. The other two soloists were the fine mezzo Juliette Pochin and the tenor John Bowley, whose upper notes were not entirely persuasive.
The chorus had to show a certain versatility, as Christians at prayer, a mob in Jerusalem or a mystique choir.
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Led by Ben Lowe, whose confident solo passage added depth, the orchestra gave to the climaxes the ring of Elgarian nobility.