Royal Albert Hall, London *****
I can’t imagine a more graceful or more moving account of this majestic work than that delivered by this largely Scottish contingent: the RSNO, RSNO Chorus and Junior Chorus and the Huddersfield Choral Society. One of the astonishing things about Britten’s approach is that – apart from the children’s choir, here singing from the gallery – he keeps his army of choristers for most of the time in pianissimo mode. His orchestral effects – beautifully achieved here under Peter Oundjian’s direction – are delicately suggestive, and his deployment of the three soloists is designed to be set like jewels against the choral and instrumental background.
While Erin Wall’s soprano sailed exquisitely overhead, Russell Braun’s plangent baritone was complemented by Allan Clayton’s pure tenor bursting out like a flame. Owen’s poetry – sad, sardonic, resigned and paradoxically also celebratory – can never have been better served. The unusual length of the silence which fell after the last phrase had sounded was a tribute to the power of this performance.