BREMF: Victoria Requiem
The Brighton Early Music Festival (BREMF) runs for two weeks in October and November. Most of the programme is at least interesting, if not a must-see worth travelling from Civilisation to the south coast for. The one stand-out event for me in the programme was a performance of Tomás Luis de Victoria's Requiem Mass, written for the empress Maria of Spain, who died in 1603.
This is a beautiful work, to have been performed along with other works by Victoria and Cristóbal Morales.
And it was a let-down.
The choir appeared to be rather under-rehearsed. This manifested in at least three ways: first, the basses seemed rather hesitant on a few occasions when they were supposed to come in and start; second, they weren't quite singing in time with each other - many times when a syllable started or ended with a hard consonant you would hear t-t-t-t-t-t-t as people started at different times; and third the conductor stopped them twice in the "other works" section of the concert to start again. The first of those was particularly problematic - it was because they started far too fast, so they're not following the conductor's directions.
And that's their second problem. The conductor was very energetic, bouncing up and down from her knees, and lots of biiiiig movements. However, from where I was sitting it all looked rather vague and even a bit inconsistent - she had at least six different ways of making the choir shut up at the right time at the end of a piece! Now, of course, I didn't have the same view as the singers did, but it certainly appeared as if the conductor wasn't really directing them as well as she could have done, and bearing in mind that the Brighton Consort are an amateur choir who rehearse just once a week (neither of which is a bad thing in itself, of course), they need direction.
Finally, there was very little dynamic range. You could tell in several places where there was supposed to be a sudden change in volume, both from the music and from the conductor's weird gestures. But at best they went from f to ff when it should have been p to ff.
Nice venue though. St Barts may be an ugly great barn, with a hopelessly muddled interior, but the acoustic was perfect for this sort of music, and it's nice and easy to get to, being just five minutes walk from Brighton station. The church also has a very good programme of music at services, some of which make it actually worthwhile going along on a Sunday, and a programme of secular concerts.