St Matthew Passion - 9th April 2011

Evening Post review

Singers equal to challenge of Bach's masterpiece

LAST Wednesday I saw the modern version of the Crucifixion when watching Jesus Christ Superstar. On Saturday the same story was narrated in a more serious manner when David Ogden and the Exultate Singers presented Bach's masterpiece, St Matthew Passion.

The first chorus took a little time to settle. However both orchestra and singers were soon in fine form and this oratorio progressed in grand style with the choruses crackling with fervour and the chorales produced some outstanding singing, the last one being particularly moving.

The idea of having the narrative sung in English made the drama that more realistic and the events more easy to understand. The Evangelist is the narrator and has the biggest part. Andrew Tortise had this role and in an immense performance which had clarity, authority and power he held the events together. He proved to be one of the best that I have heard in this part.

In an inspired choice of soloists Martin Le Poidevin (bass) was excellent as Jesus having just the right modicum of solemnity whilst Katherine Watson's soprano was of the highest standard throughout especially in the beautiful Aus Liebe Will Mein with its awesome flute accompaniment. Leigh Woolf (mezzo) was superb in her arias especially in Erbarme Dich with the violin obbligato sensitively played by the leader Emil Chakalov. It was altogether a touching performance.

Richard May's discerning cello continuo was excellent especially in the arias whilst Richard Bacon as Pilate gave a first-rate rendition in this important part of the proceedings. The orchestral accompaniment was proficient and David Ogden led his forces with great skill.The large audience was very responsive at the end of three hours' magical music.