One in the eye for Victorians



IN her programme notes for this concert, Jane Hawker mentions that the word barocco, meaning a misshapen pearl in Portuguese, was applied in a derogatory way by nineteenth-century musicologists who considered the style unnecessarily ornamented and overblown. Well, I have to report that this ‘overblown’ music has stood the test of time remarkably well after that Victorian mauling, and was alive and well ‘ornamented’ by Newbury Choral Society and Southern Sinfonia on Saturday evening. 

This was Italian Baroque from some of the masters of the genre, from right in the middle of the period. They began with Stabat Mater by Pergolesi, a man who lived only twenty-six years but managed to cram a lot of excellent music into that brief span. The work started with a sweeping opening chorus and this was followed by the first soprano solo, sung by Deborah Cachet, her clear, strong voice soaring above the orchestra.

The voices of the choir were sombre in their next part, reflecting the scenes of the cross depicted in the music. A second soprano voice, Máire Flavin, sang the alto part, her notes well integrated with the instruments.


Newbury Choral Society: Sacred Italian Baroque,
at Douai Abbey, on Saturday, June 26

The choir were in reflective, sorrowful mood for part five, depicting the aftermath of the crucifixion. The orchestra reflected this mood as Cathal Garvey’s precise, interpretive conducting brought out the best in choir and orchestra.

There followed a melancholy soprano solo from Ms Cachet and a frolicking, lively section from the orchestra.

Cathal Garvey’s precise, interpretive conducting brought out the best in choir and orchestra


The duet pitted the plaintive Cachet against the more static voice of Flavin, the voices blending faithfully and with the orchestra supporting briskly.

The work ended with a deeply melancholic sweep, performed with clear fidelity by choir and orchestra. The short but impressive Concerto Grosso No.2 by Corelli, the man credited as founder of modern violin technique followed, Southern Sinfonia demonstrating their rhythmic stability with the shifting tempi in this work.

The concert concluded with Vivaldi’s Gloria, twelve parts of Baroque magic comprising upbeat, surging voices, a duet of soaring intensity, a bright and bouncy segment, a light and airy soprano aria, a moving lament sung by Cachet accompanied by cello obligato, and voices raised ecstatically at the conclusion.

Overblown? Overjoyed more like if the applause at the end was indicative.




Reproduced with the kind permission of Newbury Weekly News