BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus – John Butt conducts Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B-minor

“John Butt, one of the most innovative and celebrated Bach interpreters today, conducts the BBC Symphony Chorus in its first performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor for 40 Years. At the heart of the BBC Symphony Chorus’s 90th-birthday season, the exciting fusion of Butt’s own period approach with modern instruments and large-scale choral forces will make for a fascinating combination in one of the most technically challenging yet rewarding pieces of the choral repertoire.” [BBC Radio 3 website]

Mass in B-minor, BWV232

Joanne Lunn & Mary Bevan (sopranos), Alex Potter (countertenor), Samuel Boden (tenor) and Edward Grint (bass)

BBC Symphony Chorus

BBC Symphony Orchestra
John Butt

Reviewed by: Pedro Correa Martín-Arroyo

Reviewed: 2 February, 2019
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus with John Butt conductor at Barbican CentrePhotograph: Mark AllanUnder 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’.

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