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From The Daily Telegraph - "Ivan Hewett reviews the Holst Singers at Temple Church, EC4"

It was a programme of vaulting ambition from the Holst Singers: five of Anton Bruckner's fervent sacred choral pieces, followed by a no less intense setting of Biblical texts from his contemporary Johannes Brahms. And, to end with, a contemporary setting of the tremendous Latin Requiem, which arouses a thrill of awe in even the most stubborn unbeliever.
Such a programme could fall flat. It's not easy to launch an audience off on such a high pitch of intensity and hold them there for nearly two hours. But the Holst Singers brought it off wonderfully.
The choir is not large, but the sound they make is immense, with each chord given a resonant afterglow by the soaring spaces of the Temple Church. The immensity isn't just a matter of power, it's to do with total focus and precision.
The fervent chromaticisms of Bruckner's Christus Factus Est were unerringly in tune, as were the winding, penitential lines of Brahms's great and rarely heard motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben (Job's agonised question "Why are we born to see the light?"). What made the experience so overwhelming was the vast tonal palette of the singing, ranging from a splendour that made the very stones ring down to the most intimate detail.
Controlling all this were the unerring, expressive hands of conductor Stephen Layton, who is surely one of the finest musicians we have. Nothing escapes his attention, but the attention to tiny details never comes over as prissy, because Layton always has the bigger picture in mind.
The final piece was the most taxing of all. Schnittke's Requiem expresses spiritual deracination by the most extreme means, with the choir's tormented vocal lines set in stark, grindingly dissonant opposition to the supporting percussion, organ and brass.
But the problems aren't just technical. Schnittke aptly describes his music as "polystylist", and there were moments of sub-Carmina Burana and sub-Stravinsky that made my toes curl. But, with the telling simplicities of the Benedictus, the piece miraculously redeemed itself, and by the end I thought I'd heard a masterpiece.
That enigmatic closing chord also marked the end of a journey, from the radiant certainties of Bruckner through the hard-won consolation of Brahms to the thoroughly modern anguish of Schnittke, who needs faith but cannot find it.
It was a rare instance of sublime music-making opening the door to a profundity that was more than musical.
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the choir conducted by Stephen Layton  

Registered Charity no. 278024 Director: Stephen Layton President: James Bowman