Bach: Christmas Oratorio
24 November 2012
Birmingham Bach Choir at Lichfield Cathedral
Bach's Christmas Oratorio is a seasonal fixture in some parts of Europe.
In the UK, though, it's probably not going to supplant the Messiah just
yet. There's considerable doubt as to whether Bach ever intended these
six thematically-linked cantatas to be played in one evening. However,
if it's to be done at all, this spirited and loving performance from
the Birmingham Bach Choir and Musical and Amicable Society, conducted
by Paul Spicer, was exactly how you'd want to hear it.
This was a performance that glowed from within. We've come to expect
good things from the Bach Choir, and the choral singing justified those
expectations - lively, communicative, and hitting Bach's sudden, ecstatic
high notes with fervour as well as mere accuracy in the work's substantial
choruses. Just as impressive, though, was the quiet, eloquently-phrased
conviction with which the choir intoned the chorales. Even without audience
participation, they gave this extraordinary music a confiding quality
- making it a true shared experience.
Spicer set brisk but natural-feeling tempi, and gave plenty of space
to an excellent team of soloists, from whom Rupert Charlesworth (a ringingly
articulate Evangelist) and the clear, fluid baritone of Ed Ballard stood
out. Countertenor Leo Tomita made a wonderfully rich and expressive
sound. And throughout, Musical and Amicable Society reminded us what
a really first-rate period-instrument band sounds like, with brilliantly
sure-footed trumpets and an oboe section as earthy and delicious as
a well-ripened Shropshire Blue. A true celebration, in glorious colour.
Birmingham Post, 29.11.2012