Placing the imaginative, telling strains of Holst’s Two Psalms at the end of the concert’s first part and Finzi’s Sinfonia da Requiem at its conclusion tended to relegate what had gone before each to also-rans.
Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer in its version with orchestra just about survived eclipse by the Holst due in no small measure to soprano Ella Taylor’s fresh-voiced singing, particularly her instinctively natural shaping in ‘O for the wings of a dove’.
Brahms’ bardic Four Songs for female choir, two horns and harp came over as insignificant, and Max Taylor’s newly composed So Sing (In memoriam –George Swindells) was skilfully wrought and effective, but no more.
Ditto, Yaron Hollander’s setting of Siegfried Sassoon’s Everyone Sang, while Parry’s There is an Old Belief was a fish out of water divorced from its fellow ‘Songs of Farewell’ before the admittedly more substantial Finzi, the evening’s undoubted highlight.
How much of it is Finzi, or may be Philip Thomas who orchestrated it in 1984 aside, it sounded like Finzi – melancholic (naturally), with a debt to the harmonic language of Vaughan Williams and Parry.
The Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus (promoter of the concert) sang splendidly throughout with generally excellent balance. Fewer voices would have allowed clearer diction and been beneficial musically, especially in Brahms’ three-part, close harmony writing.
Eira Lynn Jones was the high calibre harp soloist in the Brahms and the two uncredited horn players did not disgrace their confraternity.
A little stronger projection by the vocally gifted young baritone Matthew Palmer would not have gone amiss in the Hardy setting in the Finzi.
Made up by National Festival Orchestra and Hallam Sinfonia members the orchestra was fine, getting to play Elgar’s Serenade for strings without vocal interference, and SPC director Darius Battiwalla marshalled all with a minimum of fuss.