thu 18/04/2024

Bach Motets, Bach Collegium Japan, Suzuki, St Giles Cripplegate | reviews, news & interviews

Bach Motets, Bach Collegium Japan, Suzuki, St Giles Cripplegate

Bach Motets, Bach Collegium Japan, Suzuki, St Giles Cripplegate

Lithe choral joy in the Japanese master's inimitable interpretations

Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan in Friday night's Barbican B minor MassMark Allan

This second concert in the Barbican residency of Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan transported us across the water from the concert hall to St Giles Cripplegate, and from the greatest of masses to organ masterpieces and, among motets, a work of which Mozart allegedly said, "at last, something to learn from". All that cascading counterpoint in Singet dem Herrn in a bright church acoustic ideally suited to this music told us why.

The programming and the choral singing were perfection, Suzuki's handling of the St Giles organ more ambiguous: it's always hard to tell on that instrument what's intended as rubato and what's actually less intentional gear-changing. And perhaps we've got used to hearing such a colossal work as the E minor Prelude and Fugue on bigger organs in more reverberant acoustics. The two chorale preludes on "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr" were just right, though, the chorale tune cutting through on a rather startling stop to hold on for dear life at the end. Rebuilt most recently by Mander, the robust and cheerful instrument originally from St Luke to the north still has the original 1733 casework by Jordan and Bridge (pictured below), the perfect visual equivalent to Bach's music.

St Giles OrganSuzuki's choral forces signed in with huge but focused expressivity, every nuance of the text underlined though never excessively so, in Jesu meine Freude, with a wonderful balance between white, trumpet-like sound and careful vibrato from soprano Joanne Lunn in the smaller groupings (it seems hard to believe that her opposite number in the other choir, Rachel Nicholls, is versatile enough to still sing choral Bach when Wagner's Brunnhilde and Verdi's Lady Macbeth have become her calling cards). The instrumental textures coloured lines beautifully, and helped to make that somehow unexpected major chord at the very end as significant and almost as rich as the one in Sibelius's Tapiola.

It's hard to believe that the short, sweet and lilting Ich lasse dich nicht was ever attributed to any Bach other than Johann Sebastian. It danced in this performance, the repeated "nicht" echoing the composer's more famous reiterations in Jesu meine Freude. As for Singet dem Herrn, the penultimate leap on a "Halleluja" gave an extra out-of-body experience of the kind we live for in Bach. Last night's concert was the grand Barbican finale, but the Magnificat from that programme is to be repeated in the new concert hall of Saffron Walden, and Sebastian Scotney will be back on Tuesday to report on that.

The penultimate leap gave an extra out-of-body experience of the kind we live for in Bach


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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