Bach and friends

Andrew Benson-Wilson wrote about our London concert, March 2004, for Early Music Review.

As their name implies, The Bach Players specialise in the performance of J.S. Bach, and their concert (St James Piccadilly, 5 March) included three Lenten cantatas and movements from the Art of Fugue. This cooperative group are not heard that often, but always manage to come up with the goods when they do appear – as reflected in the impressively sizeable audience. Instrumentally they play with a mellow and warm string tone and with a degree of delicacy and sensitivity that, sadly, seems to be going out of fashion nowadays. The opening cantata, ‘Widerstehe doch der Sünde’, was blessed by the sumptuous contralto voice of Hilary Summers. She merged her early long-held note almost imperceptibly with the strings – the first of many lovely moments. Her extraordinary voice, venturing well into a tenor register at times, was ideal for the gentle menace of Bach’s opening aria. The build-up of power at the end of the central recitative was also extremely well done, as were the chromatic lines of the concluding aria. Hilary was joined by Gillian Keith, Charles Daniels, Peter Harvey and Catherine Latham (recorder) for ‘Himmelskönig, sei willkommen’, almost a mini St John Passion with its succession of very personal arias and minimal recitative. Peter Harvey overcame the rather four-square pulse of ‘Starkes Lieben’ by the fluidity of his voice, aided by the articulation of the instrumentalists. One very attractive aspect of The Bach Players is their collective structure – if anybody was giving directions it was done so subtly that it was barely noticeable. Although it is not easy to describe, I do sense a musical difference in these sorts of performances over the strongly conducted and directed variety – I don’t think musicians are alone in working better within a cohesive group of like-minded individuals.

Early Music Review, May 2004