The King’s Consort – Bach and Kuhnau

Cantata, BWV 29 – Wir danken dir, Gott
Suite (Ouverture) in D, BWV1068
Cantata – Ihr Himmel jubilirt von oben
Cantata, BWV172 – Erschallet, ihr Lieder

Claire Booth (soprano)
Robin Blaze (countertenor)
Charles Daniels (tenor)
Peter Harvey (bass)

Choir of The King’s Consort

The King’s Consort
Robert King

Reviewed by: Erwin Hösi

Reviewed: 23 November, 2005
Venue: Cadogan Hall, London

With this programme of Bach cantatas, the King’s Consort (celebrating 25 years) may have offered a slightly less glamorous programme than the all-Mozart opening concert or the “Christmas Oratorio” that is scheduled for 17 December – but still attracted a good house.

The opening Sinfonia of BWV29, a covert organ concerto, set the tone. This was a spirited, well-balanced performance; moderate in tempo, the players were especially convincing in their dynamic control and agile reaction to Robert King’s enthusiastic conducting. The outstanding element was the filigree sound of the chamber organ, played by Matthew Halls; it didn’t matter that the trumpets took a few bars to warm up. Like in the B minor Mass, this selfsame, shared, opening chorus was repeated – though as an encore.

Most captivating was the forceful yet subtle performance of the choir. Charles Daniels’s rendition of “Alleluia, Stärk’ und Macht”, despite nimble phrasing, suffered from vague diction and some uneven runs. (He was in much better form later.) It was really the beautiful Siciliano-style aria “Gedenk’ an uns mit deiner Liebe” that really raised the evening. Claire Booth’s full, voluminous voice and flawless technique lifted the level of refinement distinctively. Robin Blaze maintained this level without any sign of strain and was followed by the triumphant trumpet flourishes of the final chorus.

The D major Suite, from around 1730, showed the influence of the French style on Bach’s musical language and continued the trumpet-and-timpani-fuelled track of the cantata. The famous ‘Air’ (not conceived by Bach to be performed only on the G string!) provided a moment of repose in an otherwise contagiously lively work.

With Johann Kuhnau’s Ascension cantata “Ihr Himmel jubilirt von oben”, the concert’s second half continued at the same inspired pace as the first. As it turned out, the apologetic tone with respect to including a work of Kuhnau’s was not necessary; at times his work could well stand comparison with Bach’s. The duet of Robin Blaze and Peter Harvey (“Jesu, wenn ich dich nur habe”) was a highlight. Already, in the opening chorus, there were some interesting conjunctions that were most becomingly executed.

“Erschallet, ihr Lieder” was outstanding. Composed by Bach in 1714 for Whitsun in celebration of his new appointment as Konzertmeister in Weimar, the cantata speaks a markedly festive language. Peter Harvey was fully convincing in “Heiligste Dreieinigkeit”, with his sensitive, sonorous and agile singing. Only the duet between Robin Blaze and Claire Booth disappointed, due to the strong personality of both voices. Here a slightly more modest voice on one side would have been desirable, though both singers, independently considered, delivered unquestionably fine performances. Just before the closing chorus, the choir intoned another well-known melody: for “Von Gott kommt mir ein Freudenschein”, Bach used the famous “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern”. This was an uplifting, inspired and engaging concert.

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