Exaudi Lassus and Rihm, Blythburgh Church, March 22nd On a windswept, stormy Saturday afternoon above the swollen Blyth estuary there was to be found an hour of perfection.
Exaudi Lassus and Rihm, Blythburgh Church, March 22nd
On a windswept, stormy Saturday afternoon above the swollen Blyth estuary there was to be found an hour of perfection. Weather patterns, musical patterns, a superbly attentive and almost cough-free audience with a group of superb singers in the incomparable setting of Blythburgh church - such were the ingredients of this golden hour.
The music spanned four and a half centuries but, united by the texts of the Passiontide Liturgy as well the use of inventive harmony, it exuded consistency and a granite faith.
The singers of the justly celebrated Exaudi compelled instant attention with their secure treading of the sometimes rocky harmonic paths of Orlande de Lassus. Unresolved cadences and the arresting low lines of Aestimatus sum simply added to the atmosphere as the clouds moved the church in and out of darkness, adding their own contribution to the words.
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If Lassus is occasionally rocky then Rihm is often - vertiginous? To begin a devotional piece quietly with such grating dissonances requires musicianship of the highest order and nerves of the toughest steel. In an astonishing performance the singers created some almost unbelievable sounds including an organ and a chorus of wind instruments. Yet when the music moves to more conventional harmonies we hear echoes of the clear-sighted intensity of Bruckner.
And finally to Lassus once more, the final Tristis est anima mea concluding the performance in a gentle resolution.
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James Weekes and the members of Exaudi will know from the atmosphere and the response that they delivered something special and this review can only hint at what those lucky enough to be present experienced. At the risk of repetition, perfection.