Bridget Knowles, mezzo soprano, showed her fine quality at the Kilkenny Arts Festival when she impressed at St.Canice’s Cathedral with an excellent Festival Choir and orchestra in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra. This was a very popular event at the Festival and the capacity audience had a right good time, even with a Stabat Mater in the second part of the evening.
This choral work is not that often performed and Fergus Sheil the conductor guided the assembled choir and orchestra with measured strength and attention to the dots. Finghin Collins was in showy mood for the opening, an almost piano solo, as he acts out the moods with his head locked to one side. A quartet of Knowles (mezzo), Itani (soprano), Lemming (tenor) and Danby (bass) gave the middle section oomph and the finale was a triumph. At times the work seems very familiar like a TV ad with touches to Ode to Joy.
The soloists were positioned behind the piano and in front of the choir, but for the Rossini Stabat Mater they stayed in front of the choir but behind the orchestra. This created a few problems and I think singers were conscious they had to rise over the instruments. Tenor Christopher Lemming had a nightmare on the Cujus Animam. Graham Danby (bass) was impeccable on the Pro Peccatis and was powerful with the chorus that featured Mairead Meaghar on Eja Mater. Aileen Itani (soprano) was dramatic and tremulous for the choral Inflamatus and her work with Bridget Knowles on the duet Quis Et Homo was a highlight.