BREMF REVIEW: Peace in Europe @St Martin’s Church

Brian Butler November 13, 2018

It was highly fitting and poignant that the final concert in the Brighton Early Music Festival was on he centenary of Armistice Day and was entitled Peace in Europe.

THE spread of sacred music – mostly from the 18th century – was suitably sombre to match the mood of November 11.

Opening with The Miserere in C Minor by Czech composer Jan Dismas Zelenka, the night started with a melodious but melancholy mood. Elizabeth Adams (soprano) sang with a stunningly beautiful sonorous tone rising above the strings and oboe accompaniment.

In French composer Michel Richard Delalande’s De Profundis the soloists and chorus gave us rich red wine tones in Tim Dickinson’s bass-baritone, and its other sections were short, light and airy with a wonderful cello and organ accompaniment at times.

Josh Cooter has a very clear high tenor register and in this piece, he excelled.

Lovers of the Eurovision Song Contest would have loved Charpentier’s Te Deum, starting as it does with the long-running theme music for the European Broadcasting Union’s intro to the annual contest.

But the whole piece is a joy to hear, from the full-bodied bass-baritone solo Te Deum Laudamus to the more sonorous sound, of strings augmented with trumpets. The Dignare Domine again has cello and organ complementing the soprano and bass duet.

The highlight of the evening for me was Helen Charleston’s stunningly haunting rendition of Purcell’s Dido’s Lament – heard earlier that day at the Cenotaph in its military band version.

Rounding off the evening were four pieces by Handel. Here the BREMF players, and BREMF singers, under the brilliantly sympathetic direction of John Hancorn, gave us the full works of Handel’s gloriously rich and dramatic music.

All five soloists were on top form and Nancy Cole, (mezzo-soprano) was an equal to her colleagues, though she had not quite enough to get her teeth into, in my opinion.

BREMF does wonderful work in the educational world of Brighton and Hove, introducing pupils to classical music and encouraging the development of young musicians. It’s a project made all too necessary because of Government cuts in music education.

Long may it prosper in its glorious endeavour.

Peace in Europe was performed in the glorious surroundings of St Martin’s  Church, Lewes Road.

Review by Brian Butler