A night of contrasts from one composer

Rehearsal: members of the choir practising last week
Rehearsal: members of the choir practising last week
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A Night with Rossini

Overgate Hospice Choir

Halifax Minster

In a well-filled Minster, itself a magnificent tribute to its faith, we settled in for a programme of familiar and hummable pieces by the great 18th century composer, Gioachino Rossini.

With the first item, a piano duet, we were reminded of the warm, mellow and intimate acoustics of this fine building: this was a thrillingly driven and vibrant version of the well-known William Tell Overture. It was followed by a riveting enactment of the soprano/alto duet Duetto Buffo di due Gratti, the “miaow song”, performed with great hissing and drama.

One of Rossini’s great operas, The Barber of Seville, provided two arias, bass and tenor, celebrating hairdressing and wooing respectively, delivered with great charm.

After a quiet “prayer” from the quartet and chorus, proceedings were spiked with a “commercial break” and a brief interval, followed by John Rutter’s much-played Look to the Day.

And so, to Petite Messe Sonnelle, regarded, neither for its shortness or its solemnity but more for its surprising and vivid contrasts, sprinting between operatic and academic themes. Originally created for 12 singers and two keyboards, it was orchestrated by Rossini a year before his death. A fantastically lyrical contribution to the Mass canon, this gently ecclesiastical piece, interspersed with jolly interludes from the keyboards, was well performed in the enveloping arena of the Minster, expertly guided in the safe hands of conductor Simon Lindley: a very satisfying fund-raiser for a worthy local cause.

Derek Greenwood