Review: Leeds Philharmonic and Festival Choruses ****

Leeds Town Hall

Bruckner’s motets are largely ignored but they are crucial to understanding the man, and they express his uncritical Catholic faith less personally and more spiritually than his symphonies – with modal chords and chant-like melodies wrapped up in romantic harmony.

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The combined choirs presented five of them and did so brilliantly. Technically, the two choirs have a direct tone and delivery with none of that treacherous sweetness that infects many English choirs. The Hallé, however, were sweet-toned and urbane with underpowered violins in Mahler’s gargantuan Resurrection Symphony, but sustained this marathon with unflagging intensity.

Despite the Hallé’s best efforts with all Mahler’s pseudo “Mannheim skyrockets”, nostalgic portamentos and operatic confrontations, I had no sense of enlightenment or resurrection at the end – I never do with this work – but the near-perfection of the choirs, soprano Sarah Fox, mezzo Jennifer Johnston and conductor David Hill came close to providing it.

Leeds Festival Chorus sing Messiah, Leeds Town Hall, Dec 10, 7.30pm. 0113 2243801.