City of London Festival 2007
Britten Phantasy Quartet
Accentus Chamber Choir/Laurence Equilbey at Haberdashers Hall, West Smithfield
An only partly successful evening at COLF. St Andrew's used to be the base for the Royal College of Organists, and was fine for organ recitals. But it is too resonant for chamber music and only Eleanor Alberga's commission Succubus Moon sounded well, its gestures slow and not often contrapuntal; sounding well at this handsome venue. And regrettably (partly because the brochure map was miniscule and hard to decipher) I wandered around Smithfield and missed the first half of the French choir's concert; I will try to catch it on future R3 broadcast.
But it was well worthwhile locating the rebuilt Haberdashers Hall to experience its architectural beauties, fascinating collection of artworks (some from the Haberdashers Schools) and to hear a great world-class choir there. The adaptable Livery Hall's roof is designed for appropriate sound absorption and it quickly transforms for different usages. That must be one of the very finest halls in London for its acoustics, whether for music or speech (concert promoters please note!).
On entering, it looked as if the large chamber choir would be overwhelming at full volume (audience capacity about 150 as set up) but it proved the contrary. The groups fielded excellent soloists when needed and the collective sonority was rich, expressive and perfectly tuned.
What other choir would offer as its encore Schoenberg's Farben from the Op 16 Five Pieces for Orchestra? No, not better than the original, but a welcome novelty, as were the others too.
Peter Grahame Woolf
See aso Nigel Osborne's Differences in Demolition (Opera Circus) at Wilton's Music Hall