Classical Opera plays Beethoven’s 9th at Barbican

Classical Opera’s 20th Anniversary concert at the Barbican was an upbeat celebration – an old-school kind of concert combining readings, operatic and liturgical excerpts, with Beethoven’s 9th to finish.

Concerts like these are useful signposts. First half highlights included, the opening of Haydn’s Creation – a surprisingly complex affair, almost Beethoven-esque in aspiration. Here, the orchestra under conductor Ian Page’s direction worked hard and delivered the goods. Programmatically, hearing an excerpt from The Creation gave me impetus to revisit the work. For all the snobbery about ‘excerpts’ this makes me yearn to go more concerts with a similar editorial commitment.

The cello solo from Jonathan Byers at the opening of ‘What passion Music cannot raise and quell’ from Ode to St. Cecilia’s Day warranted the cheers from the band. Sorprano Anna Devin sung with a delectable warmth too.

The Beethoven was ambitious and valiant.

There were moments when it worked – especially in the first movement. The strings worked hard Tension was ramped up suitably. Things took a mild turn in the second movement when things appeared to moving on at quite a pace, what felt in places dangerously so.

The speed of the third movement adagio wasn’t without precedent. Hogwood’s recording with the Academy of Ancient Music took things at the same prompt speed. Something of the melancholy was lost however when the ends of phrases weren’t given due attention.

The final movement saw a return for the impressive line-up of soloists and chorus, the latter in particular demonstrating their precision and carefully deployed tone to great effect – the undisputed stars of the concert.

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