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Australia Tour, Sep 2010 - The Age, Australia

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Visitors for Musica Viva representing the Oxbridge and wider British cathedral choral traditions, the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge enjoys a valuable distinction from other forces with similar backgrounds: its voices are mixed, 11 female sopranos providing a resonant top line, an alto section with only two male members and a set of deft tenors schooled in ensemble membership rather than selfimposition.

The Trinity body’s make-up meant that audiences could experience a wider variety of repertoire than the standard Tudor regime that occupies nearly all available ground when British choirs with boy sopranos visit. For the night’s first half, the program oscillated between some expected Renaissance elements – Parsons, Byrd, Tallis – and a solid representation of contemporary Baltic and Polish composers such as Ugis Praulins, Urmas Sisask and Pawel Lukaszewski.

The singers took to the contemporary works with an infectious enthusiasm and authority… Conductor Stephen Layton’s Cambridge singers show an admirable discipline – the whole program is sung from memory – and at the centre of their offerings they sang two works of vivid and taxing power.

Purcell’s Hear My Prayer began en clair, eventually transforming into a fierce re-interpretation by Sven-David Sandstrom of grinding harmonic agony. Paul Stanhope’s Deserts of Exile proved memorable for its lucid setting of a Palestinian poet’s mourning for his ruined fatherland, ending with a splendidly achieved fusion of sustained notes and soft sibilances.

Clive O’Connell