A Britten Celebration

GABRIELLA FLATT is impressed by the sensitivity of King’s Britten Celebration.

a britten celebration andrew kennedy Britten Sinfonia canticle 11: abraham and isaac Classical Kings College Chapel saint nicolas savid allsopp week 5 blues

A Britten Celebration, King’s College Chapel, 9th November, £5


With the onset of Week 5 blues, the concert held at King’s College Chapel provided a welcome break from the routine of desk work. Britten’s finest compositions and performers came together for an outstanding concert.

The programme promised the performance of some of Benjamin Britten’s finest compositions and did not fail to deliver. The rendition of Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac was sublime. The tone from both Andrew Kennedy and David Allsopp fluctuated between passion and fleeting sweetness. The setting of King’s College Chapel proved the perfect backdrop to such an evocative soundscape; Britten’s music was vividly brought to life with the of the chapel’s famous acoustics.

The intimacy created by the small ensemble of tenor, counter-tenor and piano contrasted with the chapel’s imposing surroundings. The audience was drawn into the private world of composer and performer, resulting in a sweet moment when the audience seemed almost unwilling to applaud for fear of breaking the spell cast by the music.

Saint Nicolas, arranged for strings, tenor solo, mixed choir, piano duet, percussion and organ, followed. The amalgamation of these instruments provided a startlingly rich and beautiful timbre whilst the Britten Sinfonia excelled in drawing out the underlying raw emotion of the music. The divisions within the work were magnificently drawn together by a powerful yet controlled performance from the orchestra. The voices from the King’s College Choir provided sensitive visualisation of the music, carefully bringing out the nuances in each movement. The tenor solo of Andrew Kennedy displayed both an intuitive understanding of the music, as well as superb demonstration of technical prowess.

Such sensitivity of performance is rare. This concert was more than a celebration of Britten’s work, it was a celebration of the best of Cambridge musicianship.