31st Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square – La Nuova Musica/David Bates, with Lucy Crowe & David Blackadder – Bach, Mozart, Haydn

Cantata, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV62
Cantata, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV51
Exsultate, jubilate, K165
Mass in G, Missa Sancti Nicolai

Lucy Crowe (soprano)

David Blackadder (trumpet)

La Nuova Musica
David Bates

Reviewed by: Brian Barford

Reviewed: 19 December, 2016
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London

La Nuova MusicaPhotograph: lanuovamusica.co.ukLa Nuova Musica opened its programme with J. S. Bach’s ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, which connects us to an earlier world of belief, a chorale Cantata based on a hymn by Martin Luther. It opens in brooding fashion and slowly the mystery of the Supreme Ruler is unveiled to the World. The sense of mounting excitement at the onset of Advent is palpable. La Nuova Musica is a high-performance team with a chorus of eight and an instrumental ensemble of twelve. There was nothing under-nourished about the sound, however, and David Bates was at pains to ensure a richly textured and well-balanced performance.

‘Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen’ is one of the most brilliant of Bach’s solo Cantatas notable for the virtuosity of the soprano part as well as the splendour of the trumpet obbligato. Lucy Crowe followed David Blackadder’s example and her voice had a clarion ring to it. The abnormally high tessitura was negotiated with ease and she gave a dazzling account that was also moving in its simple praise of God. She was partnered by Blackadder with style and finesse, and the orchestral support was alert and vivid with Alexander Rolton an eloquent cellist.

Following the interval, numbers grew and Bates moved from the harpsichord to the podium. The Mozart, with its famous ‘Alleluia’, is a bravura soprano solo from start to finish. In its combination of agility and creamy, full-bodied tone, Crowe’s voice is well-suited, with élan and radiance in equal measure and an abundance of high spirits.

Haydn’s “pastoral mass” was probably intended for the Feast of St Nicholas. It has a pleasant bucolic character and shares imagery of shepherds in the fields during the Christmas season. It isn’t vintage Haydn but has many lovely moments such as ‘Gratias agrimus tibi’, beautifully sung by Augusta Hebbert, and a joyfulness that benefited from brisk tempos, especially in the bookending dance-like movements. There was spontaneity in every bar, and as an encore was a brief but heart-warming Bach Chorale.

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