From the dramatic opening words “Zadok the Priest” flung out by the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus at the start of Handel’s Coronation Anthem, it was clear the concert in the Lighthouse in Poole on Wednesday was going to be a complete thrill ride. Under the animated direction of Laurence Cummings at the harpsicord both the Chorus, prepared by Gavin Carr, and the orchestra, led by Amyn Merchant, poured heart and soul into this Handel/Vivaldi evening.
The purely orchestral music showed the orchestra in baroque scale – fresh, sweet and crisp. Berlin-based violinist Karen Gomyo played the Spring and Summer concertos of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as if she meant them. Nothing routine here. The result was an eye-opening take on such well-known favourites.
The first half of the evening was completed with Handel’s relatively newly-discovered Gloria for soprano and violins. Here Mr Cummings joined with Anna Devin, so pure and precise a voice, to emphasise the bravura aspects of the work. How she succeeded in getting air into her lungs through the trills and ornamentation with which she decorated her performance was not completely obvious, but the effect was as breathtaking for the listener as that dramatic opening of “Zadok”.
After the interval, the BSO was back to the fore with Anna Devin again and a suite of lovely soloists: Zoe Brookshaw, soprano, James Laing, counter-tenor, Andrew Tortise, tenor, and Meilir Jones, bass-baritone. In Handel’s Dixit Dominus they were as sharp, incisive and dramatic as one could want. Taken at a cracking period pace, yet with wonderful variety, this performance emphasised Handel’s great humanity. The “Amen” was as uplifting as could be hoped for on a soggy English evening, while the beauty and consolation of the sopranos’ duet De torrente provided a memory to store against life’s vicissitudes.
As the BSO gears up for its film music spectaculars across the Southwest in the next week and the eagerly-anticipated Elektra in Poole and Birmingham thereafter, we wonder at the sheer talent and versatility of this ‘cultural miracle’.