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Passion Wins Out

In Baroque, Classical Music, JS Bach, Review on March 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Review – St. John Passion (Old Royal Naval College, Wednesday 27 March 2013)

Evangelist – James Preston
Simon Dyer – Christus
David Jones – Pilate

Sopranos – Alysha Paterson, Angela Hicks & Jilian Christie
Altos – Leah Blakelock & Gordon Waterson
Tenors -Thomas Drew, William Davies & Guy Elliott
Bass – James Newby, Ashley Mercer & Jonathan Smith

Old Royal Naval College Chapel Choir
Southern Sinfonia

Ralph Allwood (Conductor)

What I love most about concert going in London is the vast range available. I don’t only mean by genre but also in terms of the range of musicians – professional, semi-professional and amateur – who make the time and take the effort to perform.

And despite the meticulous planning that goes into booking concerts, opera and recitals at London’s major venues it’s also great to be able to walk past a venue, notice a poster and spontaneously book a ticket.

And that’s what happened when I was in Greenwich last week. I picked up a flyer for a performance of the St John Passion in Wren’s most beautiful Painted Chapel and bought a ticket.

For Easter wouldn’t be Easter without attending a performance of one of Bach’s Passions.

This particular performance was the Old Royal Naval College Chapel Choir and Southern Sinfonia, directed by Ralph Allwood.

And it was a valiant performance. It reminded me of my own participation in student performances many, many years ago. Indeed one of my first university performances was the St John Passion as principal oboist. Bach wrote beautifully for the oboe family. I still on occasion pull out my book of Bach studies and amble through the obbligato parts within.

And by valiant I mean that on the whole the quality of the music making was of a high standard if marred by a few flaws that could have been resolved in rehearsal.

Clearly with Allwood’s long career in choral music, the particularly memorable and impactful moments were the choruses – many dramatic interjections in the Evangelist’s narrative – within the Passion.

The two exceptions – sadly – were the first and penultimate choral movements. The opening chorus – so beautifully crafted by Bach to create an immediate impression of both tragedy and penitence – was taken at such a slow and laboured tempo that at times it threatened to unravel. Initially I thought it might be to compensate for the acoustic of the chapel but this was not the case. The Painted Chapel has a warm and immediate acoustic perfectly suited to Bach as subsequent choruses demonstrated. Clearly Allwood was seeking to create the necessary mood but it was a tempo-too-slow and simply dragged.

Indeed the opening bars fleetingly brought to mind the great Passion performances of the likes of Klemperer or Münchinger but also quickly the realisation that it lacked their finesse and innate ability to pick out the individual voices.

But more disappointing was what can only be described as a plodding Ruht Wohl. The programme referred to warnings made to Bach that he shouldn’t ‘secularise’ his religious music and that this movement – a minuet – was a subtle ‘cocking of his finger’. There was no sense of the lilt and lightness of touch – vocally and instrumentally – that Bach wrote into every line of this movement. A shame as it represents redemption and hope at the end of the Passion. It didn’t come close.

And similarly while the chorales were intelligently shaped, Allwood directed them with no real differentiation from each other.

The soloists were drawn from the Chapel choir. Made up of choral scholars as well as volunteers from the local community as an ensemble they made a wonderful sound. However the individual soloists were a mixed bunch. I think it’s a brave – and admirable – decision to draw soloists from the choir but I did wonder if perhaps a lack of rehearsal time or even bad casting resulted in a sliding scale in terms of the individual performances.

One thing that did strike me wasn’t so much a lack of interpretation and stylistic attention to detail but more that they all struggled with maintaining the vocal line, more often than not literally running out of breath. I wonder if this has more to do with the differences between singing as a member of the chorus and as a soloist.

Annoyingly the programme didn’t mention the soloists in any way that allowed clearer identification except by guess work but there were some stand-out singers.

For example the bass who sang the arioso Betrachte, meine Seel; Gordon Waterson who sang a most poignant Es Ist vollbracht! and the resonant bass of Simon Dyer’s’s Christus.

And my reference to a valiant performance is particularly relevant to James Preston’s Evangelist. This is a role that requires both supreme stamina and the ability to communicate with conviction the unfolding narrative. This role was a stretch too far for Preston, whose voice became increasingly stressed, at times sounding like he was even struggling to reach the cadences.

The Southern Sinfonia supported the choir admirably and particular praise should go to the continuo players Steve Colisson and Matthew Burgess and the obbligati in Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärter Räcken. Sadly the wonderful aria Zerfließe, meine Herzen, in flutender Zähren was marred by the soprano’s intonation problems and messy obbligato playing from the oboist.

And yet despite these flaws Bach’s music won out. Having not attended a live performance of the St John Passion for some years, the concert in Wren’s Painted Chapel reminded me of the mastery, magnificence and devotion he wrote into every note.

2011. The Magic. The Mishaps. The Future.

In Baroque, Beethoven, Classical Music, Gustav Mahler, Handel, JS Bach, Opera, Review, Richard Strauss, Richard Wagner on December 24, 2011 at 8:24 am

2011. The year that I started this blog to recount my own opinions about performances that I attended and CDs that I listened to.

No one’s opinion – particularly mine – is either right not perfect. Listening to music is an intensely, intensely personal experience. I can sit next to a friend and at the end of performance walk away with a completely reaction and different point of view. And on some occasions following what can be heated discussion my opinion has changed. And I can leave performances I attend alone with one perception and after some thought, or a flash of ‘something’, I have changed my mind. Sometimes completely.

So what I have selected below are the ten events or recordings that have struck me as the most significant performances I have heard in 2011. And five that were disappointing against the original expectation.

Top of a list of ten is a recording – or set of recordings – that even now I return to on a daily basis. Step forward Ricardo Chailly, the GewandhausOrchester Leipzig and their well near perfect performances of Beethoven’s symphonies and overtures. At tempi faster than usually expected, these are lithe, muscular renditions of these great works. But at no point do either Chailly or the GewandhausOrchester sacrifice speed for precision and an acute attention to detail. And as I have said before, the timpanist is a revelation. And of all the symphonies, the ‘Eroica’ is my personal favourite and I was fortunate enough to see them perform this symphony during their visit to London. And in 2012 I plan to visit Leipzig and see them on their home turf.

Needless to say, you haven’t purchased this set already then I can’t recommend it enough.

Next to Munich for Richard Jones’ production of Lohengrin in July. I had originally hoped to see both Adrienne Pieczonka and Waltraud Meier in the two female roles, and while Emily Magee more than respectably replaced Ms Pieczonka as Elsa, it was very much Meier’s evening. Her Ortrud was a masterful character study of pure malevolence. As I remarked at the time, there was something almost Shakespearean in the way that Jones revealed the character not only of Ortrud but of her husband, Telramund played magnificently by Evgeny Nikitin. Indeed even when she was not singing, Ms Meier held the complete attention of the audience. Jones direction was masterful not only in its attention to detail – there were some incredibly thought-provoking moments – but also in the way he also captured the grand sweep of emotion as well. The ending – not the traditional one of redemption – is not one I will forget in a hurry.

Another unforgettable evening of Wagner – at the other end of the spectrum – was Opera North’s semi-staged production of Das Rheingold at the Lowry Theatre on Salford Quays. From the moment Richard Farnes – in a moment of simple yet effective theatrical magic – lifted his baton and raised the waves of the Rhine itself, it was a near perfect performance. The singers were without a single weakness and if I am to salute just a few then without doubt they are the Fricka of Yvonne Howard, Lee Bisset’s Freia, the Rhinemaidens one and all – Jeni Bern, Jennifer Johnston and Sarah Castle – and the brilliant Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke as Loge. And special mention of Peter Mumford and his exceptionally elegant and effective lighting. This was a performance of Das Rheingold that outshone many I have seen by some of the so-called ‘major’ opera companies and some of that credit is due to the artistic consultancy of Dame Anne Evans. I have a ticket to their production of Die Walküre next year and do not doubt that it will be of the same incredible high standard.

Staying with The Ring, next is Hamburg Opera’s production of Die Walküre (April). General Manager and conductor Simone Young drew incredibly rich and opulent music making from both the orchestra and the singers. Without a doubt this was music that Young both loved deeply and knew inside out. It reminded me in so many ways of Reginald Goodall’s approach to Wagner – majestic, informed and intuitive and with a real attention to the orchestral detail and sensitive to the singers. And the case was incredibly strong. Angela Denoke and Katarina Dalayman were Sieglinde and Brunnhilde respectively but the real revelation for me that evening was Lilli Paasikivi as Fricka. For the first time her confrontation with Wotan in the Second Act became a central focus of the unfolding drama as never before in productions I had seen. Even the production and direction – having seen Gotterdammerung the previous year – was strong. As I said at the time, each action was investing in meaning and the set – while incredibly simply – was completely integrated in the narrative. The Hamburg Opera will perform their complete Ring Cycle in 2012 and I am hoping that I can get the time to see it.

Unexpectedly, Mahler appears twice in my lists of performances. The first is a memorable performance of his Resurrection Symphony by the BBC Philharmonic under their new Chief Conductor, Juanjo Mena. The BBC Philharmonic sounds exceptional – European – at the moment, which is due to their stewardship under Noseda and this is set to continue under Mena. His approach to Mahler’s Second Symphony was one of architectural clarity with an almost Latin-lilt. It’s a shame that it hasn’t be caught for future listening on a CD.

Renée Fleming’s recent performance of the Vier Letzte Lieder under the baton of Christoph Eschenbach crowned a great year of performances for me. As with their 1999 recording, the pair took a valedictory approach with tempi that revelled in the lush sound world created by Strauss. Eschenbach – bar a few small glitches – drew some glorious playing from the London Philharmonic Orchestra but Fleming dominated with an intensely personal and intelligent performance, her warm burnished tone, with a new resonance to her bottom notes, making for a memorable evening.

Kasper Holten soon arrives at Covent Garden and I was fortunate to catch his final production at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen. Die Frau ohne Schatten is an incredibly difficult listen and – with its dense storyline – complicated to direct effectively. However Holten, with his manga-noir set managed to negotiate the audience clearly through the story as well as effectively highlight the underlying psychology woven in. On the whole the singers were incredibly strong and Michael Schønwandt and the orchestra were marvellous in the pit. I think that Holten will be a refreshing and inspiring creative change for Covent Garden.

Il Complesso Barocco, led by Alan Curtis and a cast including the incredible Joyce DiDonato, Karina Gauvin and Marie Nicole Lemieux brought a musically stunning concert performance of Ariodante to London in May. Curtis’ troupe recording all of Handel’s opera – Giulio Cesare is next in 2012 – and this performance marked the release of Ariodante on CD. Needless to say while the charismatic and accomplished Ms DiDonato stole the show it was an incredible night. Each and every soloist sparked off each other to create some brilliant music making and the discovery – for me – of Sabina Puértolas. Definitely someone to watch.

Strauss Vier Letzte Lieder are placed twice in my top ten of 2011. This time a recording both by an unexpected soprano and which was an unexpected pleasure. Martina Arroyo – more commonly associated with Verdian roles recorded the songs with Gunter Wand. Her incredibly rich voice was well suited to Strauss and she more than managed the soaring vocal line and was sensitively supported by Wand.

And finally this year wouldn’t have been complete without regular delving into the cantatas of JS Bach. While it is better to listen to them in their entirety, the beauty of Gardiner’s exemplary and recordings with the Monteverdi players and singers and the wonder of shuffle means that many a happy hour has been spent waiting to see what random and revelatory track my iPod will play next. Wonderful.

But of course not all performances and recordings were as memorable. Or were memorable for the wrong reasons.

So here are my top five ‘turkeys’ of 2011. In brief.

Top of the list is the Marrinsky Opera production of Die Frau ohne Schatten as part of the Edinburgh Festival. Jonathan Kent’s production had some moments of intelligence but the whole thing was completely destroyed by what can only be described – bar Nikolai Putilin’s Barak – as very poor singing indeed. And Valery Gergiev’s conducting was nothing short of disappointing. I am still waiting for Mr Gergiev to send me a refund.

Next Maazel’s performance of Mahler’s Eighth symphony, which drew his cycle of the symphonies to an end. His meandering approach made for a lacklustre evening that couldn’t even be salvaged by a strong line up of singers. Indeed, with Maazel intent it seemed on working again the soloists, only Sarah Connolly acquitted herself with any success.

My final three choices all hail from my trips this year to the US – to New York and San Francisco. First, a shoddy performance of Il Trovatore at the Met where it seemed that Peter Gelb had made the decision to attract an audience with casting that couldn’t deliver for box office receipts. I don’t think I will ever want to risk seeing or hearing Dolora Zajick on stage again.

Next – and perhaps surprisingly – I have selected the San Francisco Ring cycle. It goes without saying that Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde was absolutely magnificent and for her alone it was worth the journey. In the singing stakes she was joined by Ronnita Miller as both Erda and Norn and a promising Siegmund by Brandon Jovanovich. However the remaining singers were generally not up to it and Donald Runnicles was completely uninspiring in the pit, generating mediocre and bland playing from the orchestra. And yet the most frustrating element was Francesca Zambello’s often lazy, ill-thought through direction. Promising to deal with the ‘real issues’ facing the US, instead she produced a sugar-coated production clearly more suited to placating San Francisco’s rich donors than forcing them to confront reality.

And finally, Robert LePage’s Die Walküre. Again this was not about the singing which was on the whole, superlative. While Deborah Voigt might not be the best Brunnhilde, she delivered a great performance as did Terfel, Westbroek and – on the whole – Kaufmann. And special mention to the incredibly human portrayal of Fricka by Stephanie Blythe. Less a goddess bent on revenge than a wife trying to save a marriage. But the staging, I felt, hindered the singers and became the main attraction, adding nothing to the narrative or underlying messages of Wagner’s opus, but rather merely a backdrop for some rather ineffective and distracting special effects.

So what of 2012? Well looking at my bookings so far, or which I have few, it seems to be a year of Tristan und Isolde. I am seeing it twice in Berlin, including a concert performance with Nina Stemme under Janowski as part of his plans to record all of Wagner’s operas. I am also off to the Millennium Centre to see Welsh National Opera’s production as well. Later in the year I have Opera North’s production of Die Walküre to look forward to as well as their new production of Giulio Cesare.

Other plans include hopefully Hamburg Opera’s Ring Cycle, Renée Fleming in Arabella in Paris and a trip to Leipzig for the GewandhausOrchester.

No plans for anything at English National Opera just yet. I was tempted by Der Rosenkavalier but I have seen the production and while I love the opera I don’t think it warrants a return.

And Covent Garden? Not their Ring Cycle. Once was enough. Perhaps Don Giovanni as I haven’t seen a production of it in a while.

And next year I intend to listen to one completely new piece of music at least every fortnight. So suggestions are most welcome.

So a merry Christmas to one and all and here is to an exciting, enjoyable and thought provoking 2012.

Review – The Beauty of Baroque. Danielle de Niese, The English Concert/Harry Bickett

In Baroque, Classical Music, Danielle de Niese, Handel, JS Bach, Opera, Review on June 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm

A lesson learned – never listen to a new CD when in a bad mood. If I hadn’t revisited this album once again I would have missed what is, overall, a delightful, if not compelling, recital disc.

Danielle de Niese first came to public notice for her memorable performance as Cleopatra in McVicar’s Glyndebourne production of Giulio Cesare. Since then she has played other roles, notably Poppea as well as released a disc of Mozart arias. This new album focuses, as the title makes clear, on a mixed bag of music from the baroque era – namely Monteverdi, Purcell, Pergolesi, Bach and naturally, Handel. And in some of the numbers she is accompanied by the countertenor Andreas Scholl.

The disc opens with Purcell’s Come again: Sweet love doth now invite and What if I never speed? both of which de Niese delivers with charm, delicacy and attention to the texts. However from the start de Niese displays a noticeable breathiness, and while this may, in part, be due to too close a recording set up, personally I also believe it’s also to do with her technique which during the recital affects her ability to produce a smooth, legato line as required.

Next come two old Handel stalwarts, Ombrai mai fu from Serse. and Let The Bright Seraphim from Samson. While de Niese does justice to the first aria, singing it with great simplicity and musical intelligence, she fails to deliver, as I mentioned above, the requisite fluid, legato line, but instead chops the vocal line and – in some cases – seeming to snatch her breaths. It might not be a definitive performance but her rich, golden tone is hard to resist. In the second aria, with it’s accomplished trumpet obbligato, de Niese’s bright and agile soprano comes into it’s own. And thankfully she doesn’t succumb to the common practice of superfluous ornamentation on the return of the first section.

They hand Belinda … When I am laid from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas is a deceptively difficult aria. It requires an ability to spin a smooth, almost unbroken line and surprisingly de Niese delivers it to produce what I think is almost the strongest performance on the disc. Her diction is crystal clear and her delivery of the phrase ‘Remember me’ is particularly poignant, emphasised as it is by subtle use of vibrato.

From Acis and Galatea comes Heart, the seat of soft delight. With its gentle recorder accompaniment, De Niese achieves the requisite sense of pastoral rapture. Indeed it immediately recalled her wonderful performance as Acis at Covent Garden when it was then second part of a double bill after Sarah Connolly in Dido and Aeneas. If you get the chance snap up a copy of the DVD.

Monteverdi is represented by the wonderful duet Pur ti miro from L’incoronazione di Poppea and Quel sguardo sdegnosetto. Joined by Andreas Scholl in the duet from the closing act, this is the crowning highlight of the recital disc. Their two voices entwine and blend perfectly above the delicate accompaniment in this rapturously erotic music. The second Monteverdi number with it’s fleeting lute work doesn’t work so well, de Niese failing to match the dance-inspired infectiousness of the her accompanist.

Scholl returns for Io t’abbraccio from Handel’s Rodelinda. It’s clear that he provides a clear focus of inspiration and support for de Niese as this duet rivals the previous for the top slot. However it fails to ignite in the same way but is still well sung.

Guardian Angels, Oh, Protect Me from The Triumph of Time and Truth is the last Handel aria on the disc. The rather turgid, plodding accompaniment from Bickett doesn’t help de Niese as she tries to convey what is one of Handel’s finest arias. Again the breathiness returns here and interestingly in this aria alone does she seem to have almost imperceptible problems with intonation.

The first movement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater follows and again de Niese and Scholl entwine their voices to beautiful effect although the performance lacks any sense of light and shade – sung practically at one volume throughout.

It’s a shame that de Niese’s disc ends with JS Bach, as personally these two arias are the least convincing on the disc. I am not sure that her voice suits his music at all. Sich üben im Lieben from the wedding cantata Weichtet nur, betrübte Schatten is marred by the obbligato oboists intonation problems and generally feels laboured rather than loved. Schafe können sicker weiden fares slightly better although she is challenged by the sustained vocal line and therefore remains unconvincing in this specific repertoire.

Ultimately however De Niese’s breath control – which I believe can only be blamed in part on the close recording – somewhat marrs what is a good, if not compelling, recital disc. Throughout de Niese is ably, if somewhat unimaginatively supported by The English Concert conducted by Harry Bickett.

However it is worth it for de Niese’s and Scholl’s magical performance of Pur ti miro alone.

Shuffling Amidst Genius

In Classical Music, JS Bach on June 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Listening to JS Bach Cantatas (Soloists, Monteverdi Players & Chorus, John Elliott Gardiner)

JS Bach is simply one of the ‘greats’. Even his most intimate works – for example the works for solo keyboard – have a quiet grandeur and emotional impact that is not only unmatched by the majority of his Baroque colleagues but even by the generations of composers that followed. There is a clarity of form and an innate sense of musicality that often just leaves me speechless.

His cantatas must stand near the pinnacle  if not at the summit, of his musical œuvre. Bar the Passions they encapsulate all the things that make JS Bach a great and magnificent composer and a genius.

I have all twenty-odd CDs recorded by John Elliott Gardiner and his Monteverdi Soloists on their pilgrimage. It’s impressive, to say the least, that when Deutsche Gramophon cancelled their commitment to record all Bach’s cantatas, Gardiner took it upon himself to launch a label to finish this mission. Thus Soli Deo Gloria was born, a clear tribute to the phrase that Bach himself wrote at the end of each and every cantata that he wrote. And what an amazing achievement it is to complete the task with such aplomb and near perfect performances.

But I have to admit that it’s more than a challenge to contemplate listening to more than two or three complete cantatas in immediate succession.

So thank goodness for technology and in particular the shuffle function on my iPod. Naturally listening to complete cantatas is still the best way to appreciate the skill and the overall emotional impact that Bach achieved in each individual work and I love that SDG’s Facebook page gives a much needed helping hand in indicating which cantatas play on particular days. However selecting shuffle does afford the opportunity to marvel at the breadth of Bach’s ingenuity and skill as well as getting a sense – even if only fleeting – of the depth and sincerity of his religious belief.

It should be said that without the texts in front of me – and only a very rudimentary grasp of German, the focus here is very much on the music. Apologies. I love Bach’s cantatas so perhaps at a later date I’ll return to write about specific works as a whole – texts, symbolism and all.

So hitting shuffle – and in admission skipping over chorales and simple recitatives throughout – the first piece is – quite surprisingly – the opening chorus from Cantata No. 78, Jesu, Der Du Meine Seele. This is based on a chaconne and reminds me immediately how Bach took contemporary dance forms and integrated them into even his most devotional works. Taken at a stately tempo, Gardiner and his chorus let the delicate interplay of the various orchestral parts in the instrumental episodes have equal importance. From the start there’s an overriding sense of momentum as Bach constantly develops and modifies the descending motif and, at one point inverting it – a simple yet beautiful effect. As the rhythmic development intensifies he ratchets up the tension in the instruments, floating the vocal lines above them, imploring God’s attention. I wonder what effect the juxtaposition of dance-inspired rhythm and the chorale-style vocal lines would have had on the most devout Lutherans in the congregation?

Next is Siehe, ich Stehe von der Tür und Klopfe an from Cantata No. 61. What a beautiful arioso, clocking in at just over one minute from beginning to end compared to the previous chorus. A simple pizzicato accompaniment and the vocal flourish for the bass soloist on Klopfe clearly signify the knocking – simple yet effective musical painting of the text. Brilliant.

What follows is the first aria with obbligato instrument. In this case violin for Ich traue  seiner Gnaden and tenor soloist. It’s worth saying here that consistently throughout the whole series of cantatas the standard of soloists – instrumental and vocal – is of the highest standard. Here the delicate violin writing gently wraps itself round the – at times – equally florid vocal writing and great emphasis around trust (traue) and grace (Gnaden).

Murre nicht, Lieber Christ (BWV 144) for alto soloist with it’s pulsing string accompaniment, highlighting the murmuring of the text, shows a different approach. Here Bach adds depth to the instrumental writing by doubling up the lead violins with the warm, sonorous tones of an oboe d’amore. The middle section with it’s running bass and ‘sighing’ motifs from the upper strings has an interesting rhythmic gear change just before the returning of the first section. Interesting to note that throughout the cycle  it is incredibly rare to hear any of the soloists ornament their da capo sections. How very different from church music written for their Catholic counterparts!

The bass arioso from BWV 71, Tag und nacht ist dein opens with obbligato flutes and oboes. Bach again sets the scene vividly yet with great economy. The first, almost pastoral  section – literally day and night are yours – immediately brings to mind for me that cantata about ‘sheep safely grazing’. It contrasts with the florid writing for the soloist and change of tempo in the middle section, with particularly fine handling of triplets in the vocal line just before the return to the opening section.

Next yet another wonderful aria, Ach! Ich sehe from Ach, ich sehe, itzt, da ich zur Hochzeit gehe which opens with this bass aria. Here Bach uses a trumpet in a very unmartial manner to again add a very distinctive colour to the strings and their gentle lilting perpetual motion. The walking bass gives a real sense of ‘walking’ the the Hochzeit quite literally.

Aha,  A chorale! O Große Gott von treu breaks with the norm with it’s recorder obbligato throughout. Nice.

Du machst, O Tod, Mir nun nicht Ferne bange (BWV 114) with its jaunty oboe solo did throw me with its countertenor soloist. Ably sung but did Bach employ castrati? It’s one I will have to look up! Jury is out on that one.

To end, Verzage nichts, O Haüflein Klein. My first duet and a fitting place to draw a line. For soprano and tenor, it’s dance-like spirit is made even more distinctive by the  appogiatura’d bassoon obbligato which adds a slightly rustic feel. Again Bach uses the simplest of forces to great effect.

Of course I could just keep going. In total there are over one thousand individual tracks in my Bach cantata/Gardiner folder on my iPod but I will stop here for now.

Just from listening to these nine unrelated selections from his cantatas I’m simply in awe of Bach’s brilliance. His is an unending ability and talent to create completely different sound worlds each time using the simplest of means and, at the same time, painting the clearest of pictures and conveying the whole spectrum of devotion and emotion.

And it’s also clear from these performances that Gardiner and his players enjoyed every single moment of their amazing pilgrimage. If only I had been able to be in the audience just once.

A genius performed by brilliant, talented and totally committed singers and players.

Soli Deo Gloria? Too bloody right.

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