Playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw wasn’t overly impressed by Mendelssohn’s Elijah, when he wrote that he’d sat through a performance as an act of professional devotion.
Whatever you think of this eternally mid-Victorian oratorio, one thing is certain. Plymouth Philharmonic Choir, under conductor Christopher Fletcher, couldn’t have made a more telling case for the work, than their quite superlative performance, where the simple sincerity and tonal beauty of ‘He that shall endure to the end’ still emerged arguably as one of the best moments.
But a truly successful rendition has to rely as much on the quality of the other participants, as the choir itself.
The soprano role was originally written for Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind, and here soloist Catherine Hamilton proved a worthy successor. Alison Kettlewell (mezzo-soprano) was in fine voice, too, whereas the often intrusive vibrato of tenor Christopher Lemmings did tend to compromise some concerted items. But it was bass-baritone Darren Jeffery’s presence that emerged head and shoulders above the rest. Not only singing superbly with such drama and passion, he really was Elijah from the moment he mounted the platform.
It’s easy to overlook the orchestra who, unlike the choir, just come in at the end of weeks of preparation. This, however, doesn’t make their task any easier, and their vital input, led with the usual assurance by Mary Eade, needs always to be appreciated and nurtured, too.
PHILIP R BUTTALL
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