Bach Magnificat, Ex Cathedra, 4****

Ex Cathedra & Members of CBSO – Bach Concert Saturday 14th October Symphony Hall

Bach – Cantatas x 2 Orchestral Suite in D Major Bach – Magnificat

Review: Paul & David Gray
Magnificent Magnificat – An All-Bach Concert

Birmingham-based choir Ex Cathedra, together with members of the CBSO, gave an excellent performance of a varied programme of choral and orchestral music by J.S.Bach.

In the first half, two of Bach’s more substantial church Cantatas. Here, choir and vocal soloists (with soloists taken from the body of the choir) performed ably. Ex Cathedra treated us with their signature traits: clarity of tone and tuning; precise contrapuntal textures; depth of harmonic sound and understanding; superb balance of choral ensemble, and; individual and collective expressivity.

Two cantatas back-to-back is challenging for a diverse audience, but the need for contrast was delightfully realised in the second half where members of the CBSO gave a superb performance of Bach’s proto-symphonic Orchestral Suite in D Major. There was some fine playing here, with delicious solos and duets from individuals. One felt the orchestra came into their own here.

Ex Cathedra usually perform with their own small, specialist Baroque orchestra, with members playing authentic instruments. Tonight was something of a change, and there was a tentative sense of the two forces beginning to explore each other. One missed the sound of period instruments, especially as Ex Cathedra is so well-honed in authentic Baroque vocal/choral technique. There was, perhaps, a slight disconnect between orchestra and choir in the first half.

However, there was no trace of any disconnect in the final work of the programme. The performance of Bach’s Magnificat was, one cannot help but say: Magnificent!

Here one felt a true union of choir and orchestra, with a real sense of mutual story-telling. Conductor Jeffrey Skidmore gave a fine, tightly-focussed reading. One often hears people say “Bach treats voices as though they are [orchestral] instruments”, and that is quite true. However, this reading of the Magnificat allowed the choir to interpret melodic lines in a vocal, authentically Baroque way, and – perhaps under the influence of this – the orchestra responded with melodic lines of a glorious vocal sheen. A most exhilarating performance of the Magnificat.
Conductor Jeffrey Skidmore
Soprani Katie Trethaway, Amy Woods, Elizabeth Adams
Alto Martha McLorian
Tenor Bradley Smith
Bass Greg Skidmore
Ex Cathedra
City if Birmingham Symphony Otchestra

Paul Gray

2017-10-23 09:16:16

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