Bach’s compendium – Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus /Royal Northern Sinfonia, City Hall

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph, Tuesday 7 April 2019

‘Bach put his Mass in B Minor together at the end of his life from pieces he had prepared earlier.

If it was a belated CV of his best work intended to impress Him upstairs, it would surely have earned him the job as God’s in-house composer when his time came.

It is not simply a setting of the Latin mass but a compendium  of musical styles and moods – often lively and even jolly – designed to show off the talents of its various performers, who here all responded splendidly.

The focus shifts  from choir to soloists to orchestra to single instrumentalists, and all were in impressive form.

The heavy lifting is done by the choir, and our own Philharmonic Chorus was meticulously prepared by Music Director Darius Battiwalla. They responded sharply and sensitively on the night to the admirably clear and precise guidance of conductor Andrew Griffiths whose chamber group with more than its share of youthful talent, offered unobtrusive support and balance. Their soloists stepped out from the ensemble when required with confidence and flair, while the vocal soloists provided the punctuation to the narrative rather than the main thrust.

Most familiar to Yorkshire audiences was soprano Flur Wynn, who regularly appears with Opera North. ably abetted by mezzo soprano Madeleine Shaw, tenor Nick Pritchard and bass-baritone Edward Grint.’

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph, Tuesday 9 April 2019

Link to the original article in Sheffield Telegraph

Audience comments posted on social media included:

Great concert – superb conductor, orchestra, soloists and choir.

‘Really enjoyed this evening’s Bach Mass in B minor – lots of hard work clearly went into that.’

‘How amazing was tonight’s concert!’

‘Congratulations on a magnificent and moving concert. I thoroughly enjoyed it!’

‘Fabulous concert this evening…… with a conductor who was clearly enjoying working with the chorus’

‘Well done everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to you last night. You sounded terrific!’

‘So enjoyed last night’s concert. What an amazing performance.’

Women centre stage – Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus /Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City Hall

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph, March 14, 2019

Sheffield’s ambitious and popular Classical Weekend filled many of the city’s venues with music for three days, this year much of it by women. It was female composers who took centre stage in an eclectic programme of songs from across Europe from our own Philharmonic Chorus on Sunday.

Under conductor Darius Battiwalla they gave sensitive and carefully-balanced accounts of a range of rarely heard pieces, including two by women  – Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann – whose achievements are normally overshadowed by those of their male relatives.

They were joined by soprano Caroline Taylor, who gave impressively clear but delicate interpretations of a trio of reflective songs by the French Boulanger sisters, Lili and Nadia. And it was Lili who was responsible for the most heart-warming contribution to a cold winter Sunday night, her lively Hymne au Soleil.

Appropriately, Friday was International Women’s Day, and the RPO were in town. Although their popular programme was composed entirely by men, it was brought to us by two outstanding female musicians.

Jennifer Pike was the soloist in Mozart’s 3rd Violin Concerto, adding an exquisite delicacy to the composer’s youthful exuberance, to the delight of a packed house. The same qualities were evident in Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending as she sent the bird soaring noisily aloft, to almost disappear out of earshot.

The other leading lady was diminutive but demonstrative Estonian conductor Anu Tali, who brought out the best from her band.

That they have a whole range of admirable qualities in all departments was evident in a vibrant performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations which made a very familiar piece sound fresh.

Philip Andrews, Sheffield Telegraph

Link to the review on the Sheffield Telegraph website