Friday, 12 August 2022

Soloists shine as choral society does Bach’s masterpiece proud

FOR a village of only 3,000 inhabitants, Pangbourne can boast of being home to an impressive

FOR a village of only 3,000 inhabitants, Pangbourne can boast of being home to an impressive and well-disciplined amateur choir.

For their concert in the college’s Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel, the organisers had also secured the services of four well-matched soloists and the collaboration of a professional multi-talented instrumental group, Canzona, playing on period instruments.

The complete ensemble provided the audience with an authentic rendition of one of the greatest works from the baroque era, JS Bach’s awesome Mass in B minor.

The genius of Bach’s original orchestration was revealed, as different combinations of soloists, instrumentalists and choir picked their way meticulously through part one of the catholic mass.

Good balance was maintained between the different sections of the choir — the shortage of tenors being more than compensated for by their confident entries and accuracy of pitch. A special mention must also be made of the horn soloist, Anneke Scott, who, after 40 minutes of sitting silently contemplating her fate, executed the demanding corno da caccia solo with great accuracy and gusto.

Part one of the mass ended with a lively interpretation of the Cum sancto spiritu, setting an entirely different mood for parts two to four that followed after the interval.

Refreshed, the impeccable soloists found new passion. The choir, with excellent diction and confident entries in fugal passages, acted as one body.

Credit must be given also to the three baroque trumpets for their accuracy of pitch and dignified restraint throughout.

Period instruments are not easy to play, but all the instrumental soloists consistently overcame their well-known limitations with apparent ease and grace. Faultless!

The greatest moment of poignancy came in the Benedictus from the solo cellist. Mark Caudle’s sensitive accompaniment underpinned the intimate intertwining of the flute with the tenor soloist who had moved to be inside the orchestra. The result was pure chamber music and very moving. A joy.

It would be easy to ignore the silent and graceful activities of the gentleman standing in the middle of all this for two hours who had trained the choir, selected the tempi and maintained masterly control of the proceedings throughout.

Maestro Roy Raby can write this concert down as a great achievement. Johann Sebastian Bach would have thoroughly approved.

John Burleigh

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