Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Monteverdi Choir/English Baroque Soloists/Gardiner @ Christ Church, Spitalfields

5 January 2009

John Eliot Gardiner’s exquisite series of Bach concerts at Spitalfields continued this week with the cantata for the 4th day of Christmas.

The joy of experiencing the work in this way, one part at a time, is the chance to fully savour the delicacies Bach offers up in one of his most inspired creations.

Gardiner talks in his programme notes about “the spirit of the dance” as “one of the most striking features of the Christmas Oratorio“. In this fourth concert, the Monteverdi Choir positively whirled across the polished floor laid down by the English Baroque Soloists.

The central aria, with soprano (Julia Doyle on ravishing form) and oboe hauntingly echoing across the platform, was divine. No less so were the recitative/chorales that sit either side of the aria. Matthew Brook’s fruity bass intertwined gorgeously with the soprano chorus’s solemn implorings.

The cantata was accompanied this time by the second of the Brandenburg Concertos. Characterised by the dominant sound of the trumpet, it actually has three other instrumental soloists working just as hard during the boisterous first movement. Oboe (Michael Niesemann), violin (Maya Homburger) and recorder (Rachel Beckett) struggled to assert themselves against the trumpet’s blare but came into their own in the second movement.

Not only the trumpeter (Neil Brough) and mass strings but also the conductor retired, allowing the mellower instruments to break through. The sweet tone of Beckett’s recorder was particularly welcome. High-octane rivalry returned, along with the trumpet, higher strings and conductor, for a last movement of blazing triumph.

Pencil-sharp diction and some delicious pianissimos marked the opening motet: “Frchte dich nicht”. With just two concerts of this six-part series remaining, those on Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th January could hardly come more highly recommended.

John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloiosts perform the 5th Cantata with the Brandenburg Concerto No.3 and motet “Jesu, meine Freude” on 7th January.

The final concert in the series is on 8th January and consists of the 6th Cantata, first Brandenburg and “Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben”.

Performances at 6.30pm and 8.30pm (tickets on 020 7377 1362 or www.spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk )

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