Bach to basics on fine night of music

Martin Dreyer’s review of our York concert, December 2005, was published in the Birmingham Post.

The Victorians were to blame for bringing all the tinsel and trappings into Christmas. Back in the Baroque, none of those fripperies applied. The Bach Players – essentially a string quintet with organ, joined by soprano and bass – went back to basics last night, travelling from Leipzig to Italy and back to Bach again.

It was a refreshing journey, even with the odd familiar staging-post: Bach’s Air in D, neatly pointed, and Corelli’s ‘Christmas’ concerto framed the first half. Roderick Williams, one of our most versatile baritones, brought a smooth line to an already lilting ‘Welcome, precious treasure’ from Bach’s Cantata no.36. Angharad Gruffydd Jones, already a veteran of oratorio, harnessed her tone to the Baroque idiom with nimble musicality … In the Corelli the strings pointed the way, phrasing like singers and with impeccable ensemble. Awe and excitement in equal measure at the events in Bethlehem were almost tangible.

Tunder’s ‘Wachet auf!’ brought effective soprano variations on the familiar Lutheran tune. A spirit of suppressed expectation suffused Rosenmüller’s ‘Sonata settima’, effectively a string quartet, where the tricky chromatics were tightly tuned.

Cantata no. 57, Bach’s observance of the feast of Stephen, a dialogue between Christ and the Soul, brought the climax, a thrilling aria which Williams delivered with the utmost clarity. Who needs fripperies when the music is this good?

York Evening Press, 10 December 2005