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Wokingham Choral Society

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 from the Wokingham Times, April 2001

The jewel in the cultural life of Wokingham
Eton College School Hall

WOKINGHAM Choral Society returned to the elegant School Hall of Eton College for a performance of Szymanowski's Stabat Mater and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (the Choral).

Szymanowski's work, surely one of the great offerings of the 20th century, must have been unfamiliar to many in the audience as it was to the reviewer.

It stands at the frontier between tonality and atonality, the underlying grief of the text being consoled by musical passages of exquisite and immediately appealing beauty.

This was especially true of the soprano solo line sung with perfect clarity by Sarah Fox.

Her voice combined splendidly with that of Anna Burford, a rich, mellifluous contralto.

It was a pity that at times the bass-baritone, Colin Campbell, was overwhelmed by the sheer power -- itself impressive -- of orchestra and choir.

The fourth, unaccompanied movement, gave the audience the chance to appreciate the balance and sensitivity with which the choir can sing.

It is especially good to hear the men producing such a rounded, confident sound.

The Beethoven needs no introduction. The interest was to hear how the Chimera Orchestra, a group of talented musicians who recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, would perform with their founder, Edward Gardner, who is also the gifted young conductor of Wokingham Choral Society.

The interpretation gave us, by turn, scarecely contained aggression, robust jollity, intimations of nostalgia and a supremely optimistic movement for orchestra and voices.

Here the soloists were joined by the tenor, Andrew Mackenzie Wicks.

Towards the end, the Allegro ma non troppo marking was pointedly ignored to produce a helter-skelter conclusion, matched by enthusiastic applause that semanlessly followed the last chord.

The society is the cultural jewel in Wokingham life.

It is fortunate to enjoy the advantage of Gardner's maturing powers.

Hopefully this partnership, which has clear benefits for both parties, will continue and transport the followers of the society to new delights.

Robin Eaglen