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A Triumph

Bach's St John Passion,
enjoyed by MIKE WHEELER


Ten days after conducting an engrossing performance of J S Bach's St Matthew Passion, Richard Roddis turned to the composer's St John Passion for his latest concert with his other Derby choir, the Derwent Singers (St Mary's Church, Bridgegate, Derby, UK, 18 March 2008).

As well as directing the performance he sang the role of the Evangelist, investing the narrative with just the right degree of emotional charge while staying outside the action.

The choir brought out a yearning quality in the opening chorus that I don't remember noticing before, while the chorales were both straightforward and expressive.

The choir and orchestra (an excellent ad hoc period band led by Nicolette Moonen) performed the crowd choruses with a combination of spirit and precision all the more remarkable for the fact that they were entirely unconducted (not even a discreet couple of beats to start things off, I was told).

Jeremy Leaman's Jesus was dark-toned and rich, a real bass rather than the more baritonal sound we often hear in this role. William Burn's Pilate nicely suggested the bewilderment of a man unprepared for the situation in which he found himself.

In Part 1, the balance between singers and orchestra in the solo arias was somewhat problematic, but this improved in the second half. Kate Semmens gave 'Ich folge dir' a touching degree of eagerness; counter-tenor Aric Prentice made a profound meditation out of 'Es ist vollbracht'; tenor Ross Buddie produced some admirable expressive variety; Gregory Skidmore (the Christus in Derby Bach Choir's performance of the St Matthew) invested 'Eilt, ihr angefochten Seelen' with considerable urgency.

The performance was sung in German, with an English translation not only printed in the programme but also projected on a screen above the choir.

The whole thing was a triumph, and a terrific way for the Derwent Singers to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.

Copyright © 24 March 2008 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK




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