Review: The Cardinall’s Musick at the Portsmouth Festivities

To mark the opening of Portsmouth Festivities 2019, award-winning vocal ensemble ‘The Cardinall’s Musick’ presented a stunning concert of vocal music.

Described by director Andrew Carwood, as a concert of contrasts, the programme included works by Renaissance masters, alternating with contemporary compositions by Nico Muhly, Cheryl Francis Hoad, Judith Weir, and the world premiere of a work by Paul Crabtree.

The group’s ability to move from the flowing and generally restrained melodic and harmonic style of the earlier works, to the more angular and often quite dissonant sound world of modern compositions, was one of the most impressive elements of this concert. I especially liked Muhly’s ‘In great numbers’ and Weir’s ‘Vertue’. Hoad’s ‘From The Beginning’ was challenging, and impressively sung – notably in the high lying soprano line. Crabtree’s ‘Forgive me – in memoriam Iris Murdoch’, written in a more restrained modern idiom contained lovely moments and a well-judged variety of texture, but to this listener, did seem overly long. Of the choir’s Renaissance offerings I particularly enjoyed Praetorius’s joyful ‘Magnificat’ and Guerrero’s four-voiced ‘Virgo prudentissima’.

For two items: Byrd’s ‘Laudibus in Sanctis’ and Victoria’s ‘Alma Redemptoris’, they were joined by Portsmouth Grammar School chamber choir. Clearly well-rehearsed, they possess good intonation, balance between vocal lines, and great musicality – it was as though ‘The Cardinall’s Musick’ had suddenly become much bigger, rather than merely being joined by a different group of singers.

Andrew Carwood’s direction throughout was a model of discreet clarity and this well-attended concert was deservedly received with great enthusiasm.

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