An experience to savour

St. Matthew Passion, Britten-Pears Artists/Suzuki, Snape, June 28 The St. Matthew Passion needs no advocacy, it is one of the pinnacles of human achievement and one need have no particular attachment to the music of Bach nor, indeed, to Christianity to feel something of the power and vision of this extraordinary work.

St. Matthew Passion, Britten-Pears Artists/Suzuki, Snape, June 28

The St. Matthew Passion needs no advocacy, it is one of the pinnacles of human achievement and one need have no particular attachment to the music of Bach nor, indeed, to Christianity to feel something of the power and vision of this extraordinary work. However, those who do share the faith of this profoundly religious composer will undoubtedly experience a greater emotional involvement as the work moves to its climax at the crucifixion of Christ and it was impossible not to sense and share the intensity of those minutes in this remarkable performance.

Masaaki Suzuki, whose reputation in this repertoire is as high as it is established, conducted a performance of outstanding musical accomplishment as well as spiritual intensity. Both choirs were composed of singers from the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and, in addition, everyone made distinguished solo or small group contributions.

As a chorus they sang superbly, the chorales perfectly harmonised and phrased, the sharp interjections explosive as well as incisive. The central and sustaining role is, of course, that of the Evangelist and Simon Wall sang with unforced ease and pleasing tone throughout, whilst maintaining the dramatic progress and tension.


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The instrumental playing was of the highest quality and refinement throughout, a secure and respectful accompaniment often flavoured by silky string solos and poignant contributions from oboe and traverso.

From a performance of extraordinarily high consistency it is still possible to pick some memorable moments. As the choirs surged away with magnificent �lan on their chorus 'Have thunder and lightning ……' it felt as though some seismic shift was at work such was the power and attack of the rising and falling scales.

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The perfectly judged ending of part one and the chilling shout of 'Let him be crucified'. Yet once again it was the overwhelming nobility and grandeur of the final chorus that left the greatest impression and even the unbelievable behaviour of the man who took a photograph during it could not (quite) spoil the moment.

This was a performance and experience to savour.

Gareth Jones

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