Review of – ‘Beethoven’s 9th’ in Ely Cathedral
on Saturday 15th July 2017
By eventswhatson.com reviewer Rosemary Westwell
The Isle of Ely Arts Festival culminated splendidly with a magnificent concert in Ely Cathedral. Taking part were Ely Choral Society, Ely Sinfonia, Ely Consort and soloists Peyee Chen (soprano), Freya Jacklin (mezzo soprano), Michael Solomon Williams (tenor) and Laurence Williams (bass-baritone).
Under the batons of the conductors Andrew Parnell and Steve Bingham, these wonderful musicians filled the cathedral with glorious sounds to the delight of a packed audience.
The concert opened with a treat from brass instruments which was followed by a very appropriate work by Vaughan Williams: ‘In the Fen Country’. We revelled in the spirit of the Fens, with haunting melodic episodes by the cor anglais and other woodwind, gorgeous rich harmonies in the strings and an effective orchestration that gave us a real sense of the potent expansiveness of the area.
After interval, Andrew Parnell’s composition ‘Fenland Images’, specially composed for the event, was a great success. The three movements were based on different texts: a poem ‘Fencraft’ by Hilary Parry, Etheldreda from the ‘Lives of Saints’ and a poem by well-renowned local Mike Rouse, ‘Fen Night’. This composition was cleverly designed and explored perfectly the vocal and orchestral resources the huge choir and accomplished orchestra had at their disposal, ranging from earthy depths and interwoven plainsong to shimmering watery ghosts.
This amazing concert ended with a mammoth performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the orchestra conducted by Steve Bingham. Hearing this excellent group play with particularly effective musicality and understanding brought to the fore how much more there is to this work than previously imagined. Nothing beats a live performance of this standard. Orchestra, choir and soloists combined to present a wonderful, exhilarating and profound experience giving us greater insight into the genius of Beethoven.
This whole event was indeed a rare and powerful encounter.