Choir singing in Royal Hall
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Review

Bach Mass in B Minor

Harrogate Choral Society with Amici Ensemble

The Royal Hall, Harrogate, 29 March 2014

Bach flyer

Impressive Bach by choral society

Bach's B Minor Mass is a towering masterpiece of choral music.

The work speaks directly to us through the deeply felt emotional, religion-inspired, character of the music, not its form. With complexity and length, it is a major challenge.

The chorus must feel when they get to the Sanctus in the second half like marathon runners required to produce the energy for a sprint a mile from home.

But they rose stoutly to the demands and though one could sense that they were in places strained with some loss of quality in tone, the performance was a resounding success because it was so convincing as musical interpretation.

For example, in the Crucifixus, the rendering of the main theme, descending notes with acid harmony, brought out the pathos in the text and, by way of complete contrast, this was followed by the exultant, bouncing joy of the Resurrection.

A word of praise finally for the male sections of the choir. While as usual heavily outnumbered by their female colleagues, they sang with strength and confidence.

The conductor Andrew Padmore exerted masterly control over the many pages of difficult counterpoint, the long-held notes in Qui Tollis and the tricky changes of tempo in the last section of the Credo.

There was a fine bunch of soloists. The aria sung by Lynda-Jane Nelson in her rich contralto voice, accompanied by the oboe d'amore, was one of the highlights, and Gwilym Bowen, still a student at the Royal Academy of Music, will surely go far with his pure, mellifluous tenor.

Impressive contributions too from some of the instrumentalists in the Amici Ensemble (why are we not given their names?), notably the flautist and the trumpet players.

All in all, a memorable performance.

Anthony Ogus