The Chorus is Glorious!
Hola. ¿Qué tal? Below is a superb performance of Toward the Unknown Region by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It’s performed by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain (NYCGB – Ben Parry, Chorus Director). Assisting is Codetta (which is a Chamber Chorus) and the Irish Youth Chamber Choir. The Chorus is huge for this performance, which is conducted by Vasily Petrenko. He’s the principal conductor of the National Youth Orchestra. The text for the piece is from Walt Whitman and it was RVW’s first choral work, although he called it a “Song.”
I’ve read that the acoustics are not very good in the Royal Albert Hall—the musicians can’t hear each other—except for large-scale choral works such as the Berlioz Requiem. I would think with the Chorus being split it would be difficult for one to hear the other, and there’s quite a distance between the two. In that case, one has to rely solely on the conductor. And apparently they did because they were splendid in this performance. The Chorus is very precise and polished. Also, one doesn’t hear any fluttery, wobbling, shrill sopranos in this Chorus as one does with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.
I embedded this video on this article about Rachmaninov’s The Bells, from Boston University’s School of Music performance at Boston’s Symphony Hall. Someone left a comment about “Toward the Unknown Region.” He wrote that the Chorus was glorious and almost brought tears to his eyes. Yes, it has the same effect on me depending upon when I listen to it. The Chorus is superbly prepared and so is the Orchestra. Some nut said—referring to the Orchestra—that they sound like a professional Orchestra. They are a professional Orchestra whether they are paid or not.
I never performed this piece with any of the Orchestra Choruses I was a member of but I’ve always liked it and I learned the different choral parts on my own. Since I have the choral score only (Edition Novello), I didn’t realise until watching this performance that it requires such a large Orchestra including pipe organ, which is heard nicely at the end. The organist is not afraid to open it up. As I said in my Rachmaninov article, this performance reminds me of the first performance I heard of this piece by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (in the UK) with Norman Del Mar conducting. I played this video for mi amigo and asked him what he thought (and he usually tells me exactly what he thinks.) He said: “It’s a very relaxing piece to listen to, especially the first part and the Orchestra and Chorus are superb.” Yes they are. So enjoy. Chau.—el barrio rosa