Music Club's spectacular finale

Aldeburgh Music Club, Viennese classics, Orford Church, Saturday May 24Aldeburgh Music Club closed its 2007-8 season in fine form with a concert of Beethoven and Haydn given at Orford Church.

Aldeburgh Music Club, Viennese classics, Orford Church, Saturday May 24

Aldeburgh Music Club closed its 2007-8 season in fine form with a concert of Beethoven and Haydn given at Orford Church. The Club was founded by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears in 1952, just five years after they inaugurated the festival, with the objective of “meeting together for the enjoyment of making music and presenting public concerts of high standards with relatively low seat prices”.

The Club had assembled a choir of 80 (including a few welcome visitors from neighbouring groups) and a brilliant orchestra of 33 and Britten enthusiasts will know how much he loved the acoustics of this building. Words aren't always easy to grasp, it's true, and the finer points of orchestration can be smudged, but in general St Bartholomew's is a lovely place in which to listen to music and as a setting for Viennese classics it worked pretty well.

The Club must be congratulated for appointing a very lively music director in the person of Edmond Fivet, an Aldeburgh resident who recently retired after serving for 18 years as principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He told us in his programme note (a very full booklet, with useful notes by Rosemary Jones) that he wants the Club to spread its wings and embrace a variety of musical experiences and sure enough he gave us an orchestral first half that positively fizzed with high spirits.


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First up was a delightful, though rarely heard, Beethoven overture, The Creatures of Prometheus, and then came his First Symphony, composed in 1800.

The wind players, brass and timps were all excellent: as Edmond noted we are fortunate to have so many first-rate musicians living in the area, among them the orchestra's very experienced leader, Pam Munks, who set a fine example from the front desk. The players responded enthusiastically to the conductor's vibrant beat and vivid interpretation of the explosive style of Beethoven's New Century symphony.

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The Aldeburgh Music Club choir sang their way lustily through a Haydn Mass after the interval, spurred on by guest conductor and sometime cellist with the band, Jeremy Hughes. Haydn turned to writing masses in his sixties when he felt, after composing 104 of them, that he had said all he had to say in the symphonic form.

The one we heard, written in 1801 and nicknamed the Creation, is in truth neither the grandest nor the most deeply felt of the composer's fine body of work in this genre - it lacks contrast and there are “too many notes” but it would be churlish to complain in the face of such a beguiling performance, in which a quartet of professional soloists shared the honours with the well-trained and always confident choir.

I am not sure whether the soloists were best placed behind the orchestra in amongst the choir; they would surely have had greater impact had they been placed at the front, but even so the young contralto Diana Moore stood out as an extremely polished performer.

Doubtless in future concerts we shall be enjoying other fruits of Edmond Fivet's long experience as a singing adjudicator and talent-spotter. Midsummer was still a month away but the two hours spent at this concert sped by and a rosy-pink evening sky greeted us when we emerged, our heads swimming with the music that enchanted Viennese audiences two centuries ago and still enchants us today.

Humphrey Burton

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