Bach: Mass in B minor 17 May 2014

Bach imageFrom the moment we stepped inside the Cathedral on Saturday for the performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor by the Exeter Philharmonic Choir, things looked really promising.

The programme was excellent with background notes, text and translation, biographies, photographs and future programmes. The work was probably Bach’s last major composition; it was almost 100 years before it received the first performance of the entire work. This performance was much appreciated.
The choir’s entrance raised our sense of expectation and, when all musicians (choir, orchestra, soloists and conductor) were ready, the first exclamatory Kyrie won our attention immediately. The overall impression was of a dedicated choir of professional standard, with a good balanced sound – here particular praise should be given to the tenors, whose sound belied their small numbers. There was great attention to detail, including complete coordination with standing and sitting, excellent intonation, diction and musicality. I particularly enjoyed some of the quieter, calmer moments. In Confiteor there were really good polyphonic entries, with a lovely sensitivity and beautiful change to the adagio section. The opening of Sanctus sounded quite angelic, and there was a lovely change to three beats in the middle, with a good rhythmic swing. The two choirs in Osanna worked beautifully and were most effective. Perhaps more attention needs to be given to the beginnings of sections as occasionally they sounded tentative and unsure. Faster moving movements especially with runs were sometimes untidy, so more attention there to the technique and watching your excellent conductor Andrew Millington.

The performance was enhanced by excellent soloists – Caroline MacPhie, Louise Mott, Nicholas Hawker and Robert Rice – and by The Sinfonietta.

Well done everyone. I look forward to future concerts.

May 2014

Anne Brown



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