From Bloomsbury to Barcelona with Bath Baroque

Saturday 22nd January 2005, Christ Church, Bath

Foot-tapping treat the Baroque way

This was a programme of intriguing contrasts, taking us from the ordered formality of 18th century Europe to the native rhythms of South America - the New World, brought to throbbing life by the missionary priests of the Catholic church as they integrated it into the structure of the Latin Mass.

The first half was all Handel, a great 18th century European, and the opening Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne was given a spirited outing, with a sumptuous duet between Mark Bennett's trumpet and Tone Braaten's clear limpid soprano. What a lovely sound she makes, unforced and effortless in the upper range and technically absolutely secure.

Next was a lively rendering of the Occasional Suite from the band, well focussed, all cylinders firing, clean strings, sharply piquant woodwind and fruity brass - in particularly good form.

A serene and perfectly floated I Know That My Redeemer Liveth from Tone Braaten, accompanied with great skill and artistry by the three continuo players, and a lusty Hallelujah Chorus took us to the interval.

After the break the Spanish took over, Francisco Valls, Juan de Araujo, and Juan Garcia de Zespedes.

The excellent Exultate Singers, conducted by Mark Bennett, showed us how the European form of the Mass, with its intricate counterpoint and rich interplay between the parts, was infiltrated by the sheer exuberance and rhythmic syncopation of, for example, the Cuban Guaracha, pulsing with energy.

The final Convidando was irresistible, full of joyful shouts and catchy insistent percussion, played by the trumpeters, suddenly metamorphosed, and some superb solo singing from within the choir.

We went out into the snow with our toes still tapping.

Peter Lloyd Williams, Bath Chronicle, 24 January 2005

Copyright 2005 Bath Chronicle