RCS Women’s Chamber Choir

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

THE opportunity to hear rare repertoire is as important a benefit of the presence of a top class musical conservatoire in Glasgow as is the chance for young talent to sing it. But only the audience has the additional luck of being able to indulge in talent-spotting the musical stars of tomorrow.

Note the name of mezzo-soprano Beth Taylor, because we should be hearing much more of her. Every soloist in Friday lunchtime’s concert was worth the fullest attention, but Taylor’s relaxed approach to Stravinsky’s Cantata from the early 1950s was quite remarkable. Her tone is beautiful but it was the constant sense of power is reserve, only occasionally hinted at in the score, that was truly impressive. She took this demanding music in her stride in a manner that quite contradicted her tender years, which is not to diminish the contribution of either tenor Ted Black, whose style was more formal, or the choir, who had more opportunity to shine on Poulenc’s Litanies a la Vierge Noire, which preceded it, but comes musically from another era.

Conductor Tim Dean’s clever programmatic partner for the Stravinsky was the exactly contemporary Canticle II – Abraham and Isaac by Benjamin Britten, originally written for Peter Pears and Kathleen Ferrier and sung here by David Horton and Lea Shaw. In this pairing it was the tenor who seemed marginally the more comfortable in performance but the standard of the singing throughout the concert was near immaculate across the board – and what a joy to listen to works that shared Middle English texts alike but are so identifiably the work of two of the last century’s greatest composers.