Review of Dramatic Classics by the Portsmouth Choral Union

Written almost 200 years ago, Hummel’s oratorio, ‘The Crossing of the Red Sea’ received its first ever UK performance on Saturday when Portsmouth Choral Union sang it along with Mozart’s great C Minor Mass.

Stylistically reminiscent of Haydn’s Creation, the Hummel tells the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. The chorus are integral to the retelling of this story, requiring them to be, by turns, grief-stricken, pleading, full of wonderment and finally exultant. It was obvious that conductor David Gostick had prepared them well. Their clear, nuanced involvement with the drama brought the story vividly to life, as did the authoritative singing of tenor Nicholas Sharratt and baritone Edward Price. Amongst a strong line up of soloists, soprano Claire Seaton was outstanding – sustained high notes were seemingly effortless, and several E flats above high C were astonishing. She was equally impressive in the Et Incarnatus of Mozart’s Mass that opened the concert.

The Mozart also gave an opportunity for soprano Nina Bennet to display her virtuosity in the demanding Laudamus te, which she concluded with a stylishly interpolated high C. Both sopranos blended beautifully in the Domine Deus, and also in Quoniam tu solus – where Nicholas Sharratt was the stylish tenor. The chorus, despite a slightly nervous start to Gratias Agimus, was rhythmically alert in the quicker sections of the Gloria and Credo. The double choruses were well handled, with fine dynamic control evident in Qui tollis and the Sanctus. Orchestral support was provided by the ever-reliable Southern Pro Musica.

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