whats onopinion

Review: Birmingham Bach Choir, St Paul's Church in Hockley

A thought-provoking, mainly solemn evening of religious choral music, the Bach Choir certainly had challenges and one wonders how often they were able to rehearse with the full organ sound rather than an accompanying piano.

This large Chamber Choir was founded over 90 years ago delivering an extensive world-wide repertoire from all periods. Their regular accompanist is Martyn Rawles with guest organists appearing for the concert day: on this occasion the highly esteemed Alex Mason.

A thought-provoking, mainly solemn evening of religious choral music, the Bach Choir certainly had challenges and one wonders how often they were able to rehearse with the full organ sound rather than an accompanying piano.

Conductor Paul Spicer drew wonderful breadth of tone from his large forces with clear and precise directions. However, balance was often worrying particularly in Langlais’ Messe Solennelle, with the organ blasting across many hoped-for subtleties from the singers. Thankfully Benedictus came with relief with gently wandering mezzo-forte organ accompaniment and final major chord depicting peace.

Beautifully clear French charmed in Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, a student composition with haunting familiar hymn echoes. Excellent balance throughout. A total delight.

A long growling organ introduction began Kodaly’s Laudes Organi, somewhat untidy, leading to unaccompanied choir. No obvious Hungarian piquancy but highlights of good, clean fortissimo chords and firm ending.

Balance (burbling organ) at the start of Faure’s moving Requiem was occasionally problematical, but the full voices sang with expressive conviction. Pure soprano/alto threads were no doubt originally for boys, but lovely here nonetheless. Lux Aeterna tugged heart strings as did soloists Claire Barnett-Jones and David Wynne. ‘The day of wrath’ eventually led to the final exquisite In Paradisum: smiles all round.

View full mobile page