J S Bach: St John Passion

J S Bach: St John Passion

Paul Hale: Conductor. Ruairi Bowen. Evangelist: Stephen Cooper. Christus: Clare Lloyd-Griffiths, Soprano Jessica Gillingwater, Mezzo-soprano David de Winter, Tenor Greg Skidmore Bass


Incisive, high-energy music making which gripped from the outset


William Ruff, Nottingham Post

Nottingham Bach Choir deliver ‘one of their best performances of recent years’ at St Mary’s Church

Bach’s Passions, his musical settings of the events of Good Friday, are the nearest things to operas that he wrote. The compelling biblical narrative is supercharged with musical, dramatic and spiritual energy not only in settings of the Gospel texts but also in a series of reflective arias and monumental choruses.

The Nottingham Bach Choir, under their conductor Paul Hale, performed on Saturday the St John Passion, music which resides deep within the heart of this choir, their musicianship and commitment making it one of their best performances of recent years.

The projection of the biblical text was outstanding. The role of Evangelist is central to the whole drama and on his shoulders lies the burden of communicating the detail and meaning of the events before, during and after the Crucifixion. Ruairi Bowen was compelling from beginning to end, with a beautifully agile voice and probing musical intelligence. Crucially he hardly ever looked at his score, allowing him to communicate directly with the audience and to interact with Stephen Cooper (a sensitively portrayed Christus) and other characters from the narrative. In fact, the whole performance sprang from the bloodstream rather than the page.

All the other soloists (Clare Lloyd-Griffiths, Jessica Gillingwater, David de Winter and Greg Skidmore) were effective at injecting a personal, lyrical and contemplative element into the drama. Again they sang with their eyes, not just with beautiful voices.

The Bach Choir sang movingly in the devotional chorales, demonstrating their imaginative involvement in the events of the Passion. And they were hugely impressive in the massive choruses which frame the story. Here Paul Hale moulded tightly disciplined performances from both singers and the highly responsive orchestra.

This was incisive, high-energy music making which gripped from the outset and kept the audience in its spell until the end.

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