Birmingham Bach Choir’s latest concert in a series devoted to “Inspiring Masses” provided fascinating contrasts. Haydn’s Harmoniemesse is a work of his old age, composed by a man at peace with himself and his maker.
The music has a warm autumnal glow, easy-paced, amiable and without the quirky modulations and changes of tempi that are the hallmark of his symphonies. Until the final Agnus Dei it sounds like Haydn in third gear but here the music blossoms as pizzicato strings support a delightful interplay of the orchestra’s wind section, the “harmonieband” from which the work derives its nickname. The Orchestra of the Swan’s players excelled here and, conducted by Paul Spicer, provided fine support throughout.
Beethoven’s Mass in C is by the composer in his middle-period prime –dramatic and febrile with the Qui tollis sounding particularly menacing. In both masses the vocal quartet tends to work as a unit without florid solos. Claire Seaton (soprano), Susanna Spicer (alto), Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks (tenor) and Adam Green (baritone) were unobtrusively excellent, their voices blending well together. Beethoven’s sometimes rapid changes in dynamics make stern demands on the choir, who rose to the challenge splendidly. A very satisfying performance of this infrequently heard masterpiece.
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