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Amongst the concert's highlights were three of the four soloists. The bass Alex Ashworth, currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music, has a fine tone matched by equally agile musicality, and his projection was assured in the aria Grosser Herr, several cleanly articulated recitatives and the semi-chorus Jesu mein Freud und Wonne in Part IV. He was joined by the vibrant soprano Anya Szreter in the duet Herr dein Mittlied (Part III), whose solo aria in the final part, Nur ein Wink found her resilient timbre richly resonant, enmeshed in highly expressive ensemble with the obligato oboe. Of lighter delicacy was the polished alto Kate Lawrence, her first aria Beriet dich smoothly phrased, interweaving with cor anglais, and a sonorous breadth to Warum wollt ihr erschreken (Part V), the 'fear' depicted in stylized string tremolandos. In trio with Anya Szreter and the tenor Jim Griffiths, one could appreciate the invention of Bach's ensembles. However, on this occasion things were generally problematic for this tenor, a lack of control and tuning adding conviction to the Evangelist's line in Part V, When King Herod heard this he was troubled ...

Certainly the vivid orchestral playing, led by Dai Emmanuel, did much to keep the music alert and alive, not least due to the beautiful contributions, on cor anglais, by the distinguished woodwind player Neil Black OBE, and later by oboist Stella Dickinson, and by Kate Moore the bold trumpeter. Her virtuosity throughout, particularly in the effervescent final chorus, Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen, added a much needed injection of rhythmic impetus and brilliance. It was a welcome fillip to a performance that throughout radiated the sheer joie de vivre of this seasonal work.

Cholmeley Choral Society's next concert, also at St Mary's Church, Brookfield, Dartmouth Park Hill, London NW5, is on 23 March 2002, and includes Mozart's Coronation Mass and the Rutter Requiem.

Copyright © 15 December 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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