Review – 17th March 2012 Concert: Blake Benedictus


Composer thrilled at Island premiere

Last Saturday’s combined IWSO and the IW Cantata Choir concert at the Medina Theatre opened with a captivating performance of Mendelssohn’s popular overture The Hebrides.

The orchestra, guided by the baton of Jonathan Butcher, evoked perfectly the restless and turbulent nature of the work with its moments of tranquillity. Full of wonderful melodies, this piece is a perfect concert opener.

The audience was then treated to Telemann’s Concerto in G major for Viola and Strings.

The soloist, Rosalind Ventris, enthralled with her wonderfully controlled and stylish playing.

The purists might have felt a smaller and more intimate orchestra would have been more appropriate for this baroque genre (and allowed the harpsichord continuo to be heard more) but fortunately this talented soloist was not overwhelmed.

This delightful work presented an opportunity to showcase the string section of the orchestra with a first-rate soloist and was much enjoyed.

The Cantata Choir, musical director Rachel Tweddle, joined the orchestra for the second half to perform Howard Blake’s Benedictus.

This is a challenging work for all concerned but expectations were heightened, and nervous tension increased, as the composer himself had travelled from London to hear the performance.

Benedictus tells the story of a novice’s difficult journey into monastic life and was written for the 1500th anniversary of St Benedict (born 480 CE).

It opens with an evocative viola prelude played by Ventris, who here showed off the expressive capabilities of the viola.

Philip O’Brien (tenor) was superb in the very demanding role of the troubled novice, which requires not just an extensive vocal range but also the technique of ‘speech-song’ (sprechgesang).

Nathan Thomas was excellent in the role of narrator; his diction was clear and well-paced.

The choir looked and sounded fabulous, tackling some tricky eight-part passages with gusto.

Orchestra, choir and soloists produced a memorable and exciting performance, entrancing the audience with dramatic and compelling story telling.

Everyone involved will be pleased I can relate that Howard Blake was absolutely thrilled with the performance.

He felt the conviction with which the emotional drama was conveyed by all the performers was just marvellous.

By Lilian Scaddan, IW County Press. Friday, March 23, 2012