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Turbulent emotions and rousing tunes

Messa Di Gloria by Giacomo Puccini and Stabat Mater by Gioachino Rossini, Saturday 24th March 2018 in Wakefield Cathedral.

The audience was treated to works by two of the great Italian operatic composers of the 19th Century on Saturday evening, with many leaving the Cathedral at the end of the concert humming some of the wonderful, memorable and rousing tunes.

The Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir were joined by soloists Sarah Power, Soprano; Cliff Zammit Stevens, Tenor; Andrew Mahon, Bass; and, at very short notice due to illness, Adriana Festeu, Mezzo Soprano.

The accompaniment was provided by the ever-popular and talented Amici Ensemble, all under the masterly direction of Dr Andrew Padmore, Conductor, who guided the combined forces through the turbulent emotions of these great Romantic pieces.

A choir of 100 strong, four talented soloists, the Amici Ensemble, all under the baton of Andrew, offering two beautiful and inspiring works – the ultimate recipe for a wonderful and inspiring evening of music in Wakefield Cathedral.

The first work of the evening was Puccini’s very early Messa Di Gloria, a piece submitted at graduation from the Conservatoire and first performed in 1880 in Lucca. It was described at the time by the local priest at the cathedral as ‘hooligan like, not remotely connected with divine worship’, who refused to bless it so it could be performed in churches. Thankfully for Puccini, it went down well with the wider public by whom it was received with ‘frenzied delight’. This may not have been quite the reception shown by our more restrained 21st century Yorkshire audience, but it was certainly received on Saturday with much pleasure, enthusiasm and delight. All richly deserved.

It was quite a big sing for the choir – but with Puccini’s lovely tunes that embed themselves in the memory, a thoroughly enjoyable one. Who will ever forget the bounce, exuberance and climax of the Gloria, almost a work in itself or in the Credo, the tenor solo voice accompanied by the choir, starting with ‘Et incarnatus est’, beautifully sung by Cliff Zammit Stevens.

After the interval, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, sung quite appropriately in the week before Easter, reminded us of the terrible suffering of Mary at the foot of the crucifixion cross.

This piece was written later on in Rossini’s career, after he had retired from writing operas. First performed in Paris 1842, ‘Rossini's name was shouted out amid the applause. The entire work transported the audience; the triumph was complete’. In 1842, three of the movements had to be repeated due to the demands of Rossini’s audience. Whilst not the case in Wakefield cathedral on Saturday, the audience was no less enthusiastic and appreciative.

In this work, the choir is given a little more breathing space and the soloists put through their very capable paces.

Utterly memorable had to be the beautifully entwined voices of Sarah Power and Adriana Festeu in the Duet. Unbelievable that these two lovely singers had met for the first time on the day of the concert – they sang this duet with such delicacy and empathy that everyone was transfixed by its beauty.

Adding to the treat already offered by Sarah and Adriana was the lyrical bass solo sung by Andrew Mahon.

Rossini’s Quartet brought us the blended talents of all four of the soloists, before Adriana’s lovely solo, Cavatina. Amazing to think that a week ago Adriana did not even know she was to sing in this concert; her command of the works and her ‘fit’ with the other soloists was remarkable. Thank you Adriana!

So, a wonderful evening – inspired by the works, the accompaniment, the singers, and under Andrew Padmore’s inspiring leadership, we all had a great night out – whether as a member of the audience or a performer – and we all left the cathedral humming our hearts out!

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