The Organ

Tippett: A Child of Our Time

London Chorus / New London Orchestra / Ronald Corp
5th February 2005

There is no problem with a plethora of performance of A Child of Our Time for the Tippett anniversary. If anything I am surprised we do not hear the work more often.

However this Barbican performance was something of a mixed blessing. The chorus were on fine form, obviously enjoying the work and making much of the Bach/Handel connections. At the start I caught a sudden whiff of Elgar and realised that the work was composed within a few years of the composer's death and remarkably close to the sketches for the Third Symphony. In that respect it follows very closely the traditions of the English choral scene. Ronald Corp and his chorus were most firmly at home during the spiritual settings which lie at the heart of the work. But there is more to it than this, and if the universality of the score is to communicate, the soloists need to be more than just voices. Mark Wilde impressed as the boy and in the later tenor sections but the other three soloists never really made the impact that the score demands. Claire Rutter has a secure enough top to the voice but it lacked characterisation, as did Susan Mackenzie-Park's mezzo which occasionally became almost inaudible. Jeremy White's bluff bass seemed lost in the text.

As a result we were thrown back on the chorus who were crisp and efficient, and the orchestra who were better than adequate but hardly inspiring.

All of this might have amounted to a happier experience had we not had to sit through Copland's over-hyped Fanfare for the Common Man and Samuel Barber's very second division violin concerto. Violinist Matthew Trustler is a fine instrumentalist but wasted on this material. Tippett would have been more than enough by himself - but maybe the Copland and Barber was an attempt to sell seats - the hall felt almost half empty.