Saturday 26 March 2011

Bach Mass in B Minor

To the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night for a performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor given by the Feinstein Ensemble and I Fagiolini. The 8 singers from I Fagiolini (Anna Crookes, Julia Doyle, Clare Wilkinson, William Purefoy, Simon Wall, Matthew Long, Charles Gibbs and Francis Brett) sang 1 voice to a part and the 19 instrumentalists were similarly one to a part. The result was exactly the sort of light, transparent account of the music which I enjoy. For the 1st 3 movements (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo), where the choral sections are generally 5 part, the singers swapped about giving us different line ups, with Clare Wilkinson singing both alto and 2nd soprano. Then of course, in the Sanctus and Agnus, Bach gets more varied and finally in the Dona Nobis Pacem, all the singers came together doubling parts for the first time.

Singing Bach 1 voice to a part is quite an achievement and I Fagiolini gave a finely musical performance which seemed remarkably without stress. I must confess that I could have wished for a greater element of bravura in the singing at times, particularly in the solos, but this must be contrasted with the fine feeling of ensemble, consort singing. That is not to say the the singers were overly blended, and the different lines were nicely characterful.

The accompaniments from the Feinstein ensemble were similarly fine grained, with some notable solo playing and some superb high trumpet playing. Though there one or two moments of uncertain ensemble when I felt that a stronger musical direction might have been called for. Director Michael Feinstein played flute and seemed content to generally let things happen, when he could have been more dynamically directive.

A fine evening.

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