Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio – Parts 4, 5 & 6, plus Sanctus from Mass in B-minor – Choir & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Masaaki Suzuki at Cadogan Hall

Bach
Mass in B-minor, BWV232 – Sanctus
Christmas Oratorio, BWV248 [Parts 4, 5 & 6]

Anna Dennis (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Jeremy Budd (tenor) & Ashley Riches (baritone)

Choir of the Age of Enlightenment

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Masaaki Suzuki


Reviewed by: Denise Prentice

Reviewed: 10 December, 2016
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

Rogier van der Weyden: Adoration of the Magi, c.1430–60The second OAE concert to complete J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio – spanning the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ to the Feast of the Epiphany – opened with the celebratory ‘Sanctus’ from the B-minor Mass, its elaborately layered harmonies illuminated with a bold, uplifting energy, natural horns framing this soaring and stately music with softening warmth.

In the Oratorio, the Feast of the Circumcision began with an affecting chorus of thanksgiving. The vocal soloists delivered the narrative distinctly and with variety. Anna Dennis rendered a luminous aria, delicately woven with woodwind melodies and a delightful soprano accompaniment from the rear of the stage, echoing the affirmative vow to rejoice in the Saviour.

Jeremy Budd recited as the Evangelist with engaging sensitivity, his tender and nuanced tone infused with understated passion. Robin Blaze displayed a pleasing purity of timbre, even in the demanding upper register. Ashley Riches gave depth to a brooding Herod, darkly and ominously. His precise and expressive phrasing combined with a mesmerising stage presence instilled the libretto with vivid life.

Another distinctive solo came from Julia Wedman’s violin, as accompaniment to an exuberant aria toward the conclusion of part four. She established her presence with emotive playing. With Masaaki Suzuki at the helm, the performance sustained a fluid continuity, resulting in a joyous rendition delivered at a lively pace, fizzing with vitality and warmth.

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