Review: Hope and Passion at the RLPO ****
There's an extra frisson of anticipation in the air when a composer conducts their own work.
And when that composer is John Rutter, one of the best-known and best-loved British music-makers of the late 20th century (and counting), that sense of anticipation can only intensify.
What an experience too for the young singers of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir, joining forces here with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir to create an army of voices for this city premiere of Rutter's new, effervescent, chime-filled choral work The Gift of Life.
The piece, penned for the retirement of a Dallas minister of music (that's one hell of a whip round at work!), acted as a yang to the yin of his famous Requiem in this Rutter double bill at the Philharmonic Hall.
Along with Requiem, the composer is also famous for his carols, and the opening 'canticle of creation' in this upbeat affirmation of life sounds just like Christmas, welcoming in a season of goodwill with chimes and bright soprano voices.
The musicality, the harmonies - it's trademark Rutter.
The composer himself, lively on the podium, encouraged the massed voices and RLPO to a glorious cinematic crescendo. So cinematic, all it needed was Charlton Heston to stride on with beard, robe and staff.
Elin Manahan Thomas
Elsewhere, the choirs showcased excellent diction and delivery, clearly relishing Rutter's classic rich, embracing harmonies.
The new work was paired with the hugely popular Requiem, which was itself paired with Barber's Adagio for Strings - exactly the combination Rutter conducted on a 2005 visit to Hope Street.
The Requiem was smoothly delivered, if a little understated at times, with soloist Erin Manahan Thomas bringin bell-like clarity, almost boy soprano clarity, to the Pie Jesu - although one top note fell a little flat.
But the burnished Sanctus was simply gorgeous, the choir delivered a stirring Agnus Dei, and there were some notable orchestral solos, not least Hilary Browning's lovely, dark chocolatey cello playing in the Porgy and Bess-infused Out of the Deep.
The concert was performed in memory of the late Roz Kelly, a member of the RLP Choir.