RSNO Chorus

RSNO Centre, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

INTRODUCING Sunday afternoon’s concert dedicated to the memory of singer and President and Chair of the RSNO Trust, Jenny Laidlaw, chorusmaster Gregory Batsleer described her as being at the heart of all the significant developments in the choir’s recent history. Appropriately, then, this was another one – a performance of Ein Deutches Requiem by Johannes Brahms in the two-piano arrangement the composer himself made, with the involvement of performers who demonstrated the wider work of the choir.

That included Batsleer handing over the baton for the 4th movement of the work (arguably the one with the most beguiling melody) to the current Alexander Gibson Choral Conducting Fellow, Sarah Charista. The young Indonesian musician made the most of her opportunity, shaping the chorus-only movement with great clarity and beautifully fluid technique.

That section of the work, setting Old Testament verses from Psalm 84, is bracketed by those that featured the vocal soloists, soprano Alison McNeill and baritone Oskar McCarthy. McCarthy played Junius in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s fine production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia earlier this month, and McNeill’s portfolio musical career includes her own conducting work with youth choirs. Most importantly, they were beautifully matched — both having characterful vibrato as part of their distinctive instruments.

The chorus director had shown his considerable faith in the musical chops of every member of his choir by mixing them all up, rather than seating them in sections. As well as demonstrating that there are no passengers in the RSNO Chorus, it also produced a delightfully integrated ensemble sound in the superb acoustic of the “new” auditorium. By instigating a whole different look to the choir, it also made very clear just how wide is the age range of current membership, and it was only by counting the names in the programme that you would know there were just 16 tenors among them.

In the second movement Batsleer made sure that the crucial unison passages were very measured, and, apart from some shrillness in the sopranos at the start, all the sections had a very rounded sound, nowhere more so than in the finale when the accompaniment by pianists Christopher Baxter and Edward Cohen becomes more spare and essential.