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Culture: A blessing in disguise.

Byline: David Hart

Ex Cathedra

Symphony Hall


We should be glad that Bach never wrote operas. If he had the world may not now have the powerful and engrossing St Matthew Passion, an opera in everything but style and structure.

As a concert work, albeit intended for liturgical purposes, it is so much greater for being untrammelled by the artifices and strictures of Baroque operatic conventions.

Ex Cathedra's performance on Saturday, their first for ten years, and "eagerly awaited" according to Jeffrey Skidmore, was marked by a wonderful sense of continuity, the individual numbers integrated into a swift moving flow of narrative and dramatic progression.

Keynote arias were not allowed to dominate as vocal display pieces, although they were delivered competently by soloists drawn from within the two choirs.

Some of them, such as Grace Davidson's Ich will dir mein Herze schenken, Eamonn Dougan's Mache dich, mein Herze, rein, and alto Mark Chambers' Bu#hx00DF' und Reu, were sung spectacularly well.

Of the nine named soloists Nicholas Multroy's Evangelist impressed most of all.

Singing mostly from memory, every word had absolute clarity and expressive weight - a superbly fluent and at times almost confidingly conversational narrator.

Chorally, too, this was a memorable reading. Ex Cathedra's 50-odd singers, in double-choir formation linked by the zesty young voices of the group's junior academies, displayed a vibrant and crisply enunciated resonance, tenor and bass sections noticeably so.

Orchestral support sounded authentically Baroque in terms of pitch and articulation, with some telling flute and oboe d'amore contributions. String intonation, however, seemed occasionally wayward, and the rather pallid violin obbligato to Mark Chambers' glorious Erbarme dich took a while to settle down.

David Hart
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 14, 2006
Previous Article:Culture: Not Fantastique enough.
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