Under the leadership of John Butt, the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra delivered a top-class performance of J. S. Bach’s Mass in B-minor, one that elevates the tradition of Leonhardt and Harnoncourt.
It opened resolutely, the choir beautifully counterpointed by woodwinds and strings, and during the heartfelt ‘Christe eleison’ the singing of Joanne Lunn and Mary Bevan was simply spectacular. While the Chorus sung with vitality the ‘Gloria in excelsis’ and ‘Et in terra pax’, the Orchestra’s heavenly sound was enhanced by the bright tones of the brass; furthermore, Bevan’s voice and the fine playing of concertmaster Igor Yuzefovich made for something ecstatic, whereas Lunn and Samuel Boden’s interpretation of ‘Domine Deus’ is best described as exquisite. Alex Potter was delightful during ‘Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris’, Edward Grint was solid in ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’, and the ‘Gloria’ concluded with an awe-inspiring ‘Cum sancto spiritu’.
The ‘Credo’ and the remainder of this great work followed in like fashion, all the musicians remaining on best form, Butt’s expert judgement most-evident during ‘Et expecto’, delivered with great momentum and suspense, and Boden gave a refreshing rendition of the ‘Benedictus’, Michael Cox highlighting the tender flute counterpoint. Potter’s impeccable rendition of the ‘Agnus dei’ was one of the highlights of the concert, which ended with a colossal ‘Dona nobis pacem’.