The much loved Radio 3 producer and conductor Richard Butt was remembered in this concert by the Birmingham Bach Choir.
Its programme of unaccompanied motets and organ solos proved an interesting alternative for the sizeable audience evidently able to resist the appeal of Mozart’s Requiem, happening simultaneously at Symphony Hall.
Francis Poulenc’s Four Motets drew exactly the right colours from the ensemble under Paul Spicer, with its opening, O Magnum Mysterium, demonstrating a superb control through quiet passages of sustained notes. The choir’s inner voices, so often overlooked, impressed throughout with their sensitivity and timbre.
Joined by the Choristers of Lichfield Cathedral, the choir gave a puzzling performance of Britten’s A Boy was Born. The ensemble excelled in its challenging, atmospheric movements such as “In the bleak mid-winter” and “Jesu, as Thou art our Saviour”, which featured a terrific treble solo, but a lack of clear diction and direction made loud tutti sections appear somewhat muddled.
Still, it was an absolute treat to hear Messiaen’s Dieu parmi nous from La Nativité, a piece played with confident assurance by organist Alistair Reid, and one that awakened every inch of St Chad’s acoustic.
Rating * * *