Patron: His Majesty King Charles III
Chorus Master: Gavin Carr
Accompanist: Timothy End
Arts Council England


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Rachmaninov - The Bells
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko
Royal Festival Hall, London

Poetic cello, blazing chorus - Atmospheric Elgar and Weinberg, but Rachmaninov's 'The Bells' takes the palm

Purple patches flourished in the first half of this admirable programme: it could hardly have been otherwise given Sheku Kanneh-Mason's devotion to a new work in his repertoire, and the current strength of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko. Even so, it was the culmination, Rachmaninov's multifaceted "Choral Symphony" The Bells, which truly dazzled.

It seems so obvious: Petrenko just knows this idiom and is completely at ease with the difficult Rachmaninov rubato. The Philharmonia Chorus was simply electrifying: hard to believe they weren't professionals with a knockout sound like that.

This, rather than the too church-choiry Tenebrae, is what Pappano needed for his Ravel Daphnis et Chloé, repeated last night over at the Barbican at around the same time. The two masterpieces are only a year apart, and Rachmaninov proves master orchestrator too in the glitttering spirit of delight that frames his opening sleigh-ride. What a punch from the opening choral response to the tenor's "listen!", though, and what overwhelming climaxes throughout.

It takes real power and expression to hold focus in the "Loud Alarm Bells" movement; in Konstantin Balmont's translation of Edgar Allan Poe, when the voices become the flames in "I want to go higher, to burn higher, to touch the moonbeams", the effect was one of terrifying levitation. Special kudos to Chorus Master Gavin Carr.
David Nice, The Arts Desk, 12 April 2024

Rachmaninov's take on The Bells hits the spot

When a big choral symphony is called The Bells, a basic requirement, you might think, would be to hear some bells. There were three handsome specimens, small but sturdy, parked at the end of the percussion line on the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's back row. Reader, I could hear none of them.

Disappointment? Well, a smidgen. But so much else in Rachmaninov's spectacular take on Edgar Allan Poe's poem, the crowning glory of Vasily Petrenko's latest concert in the RPO's Icons Rediscovered strand, hit the spot unimpeded. Top of the list was the mighty force of the 80-strong Philharmonia Chorus, splendidly nurtured by its chorus master Gavin Carr, and especially thrilling in the alarm bell section. Not far below came the stentorian wonder of the baritone Andrii Kymach, your perfect companion for the gloomy bells of the final movement, fittingly marked "lento lugubre".
Geoff Brown, The Times, 12 April 2024

Sheku Kanneh-Mason and the Philharmonia Chorus shine in Weinberg and Rachmaninov

Rachmaninov's cantata 'The Bells' after the interval was an unqualified triumph. Petrenko was on home ground here, and he inspired a coruscating performance from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, doing full justice to Rachmaninov's brilliance as an orchestrator and his instinctive sense of drama. The soloists too were superb: the sweet-toned tenor Pavel Petrov found it hard to project his voice over the hubbub in parts of the first movement, but in the second the soprano Mirjam Mesak's clear, bell-like voice was a joy to hear, opening out thrillingly at the movement's climax. The fine baritone Andrii Kymach brought appropriately cavernous gloom to the final movement: he had me hoping that Petrenko might engage him for Shostakovich's Babi Yar.

The real heroes of the evening, though, were the Philharmonia Chorus. Not especially large around 100 singers they blew us away with their first entry: precision, attack, and enough volume for 'Gurrelieder'. The quieter moments they're humming over harp, piano and celeste later in the first movement were magical too. They were fabulous: the combined power of chorus and orchestra at the climaxes was shattering.
Chris Kettle, Seen and Heard International, 14 April 2024

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Shore - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in Concert
Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra conducted by Ludwig Wicki
Royal Albert Hall, London

Conducted by Ludwig Wicki, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra's playing is very much a credit to Shore's masterwork. The violins are powerfully used to pull at the heartstrings, the brass section gets the pulses pumping when the fighting starts and, when the Philharmonia Chorus join in, there is a phenomenal wall of sound which pushes us back into our seats.
Franco Milazzo,, 18 March 2024

The stunning Philharmonia Chorus and Trinity Boy's Choir give depth and emotion to the beautiful choral moments
Lucy Boardman,, 17 March 2024