Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a mammoth work putting great demands on performers as it unfolds the momentous events of the Nativity.
Each of its six cantatas was designed to be given on the appropriate day of the liturgical calendar: a complete performance in its entirety was never envisaged by the composer, so Hereford Cathedral Choir’s decision to programme it to mark Candlemas, the fortieth day of Christmastide, was a brave one.
This Cathedral Choir is one of the few such all-male bodies to have the Oratorio, as well as both Bach Passions, in their repertoire and Saturday’s account was triumphant.
Choral sound was both warm and incisive under Geraint Bowen’s direction, a generally effective solo quartet included the excellent Simon Wall as the Evangelist, scaling Bach’s high tenor registers with no sign of strain, and the Marches Baroque orchestra played splendidly.
The acoustic proved no problem for these forces, Bach’s brilliant writing cutting through the fog acutely.