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Bach: B Minor Mass, Dec 2015 - Evening Standard

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The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge is no ordinary Oxbridge choir. Fielding no fewer than 30 choral scholars as well as professional stiffening, it ranks with the best in the world. In Bach’s Mass in B Minor, the penultimate event in the 30th Christmas Festival at St John’s, it delivered singing of the highest calibre in both the tightly wrought fugal movements and the freer, more celebratory ones. Of the latter, Et Exspecto and Osanna in Excelsis were particularly invigorating at Stephen Layton’s brisk pace, the virtuosity undeniable.

Once or twice one felt that a tempo a notch steadier might have achieved a more satisfactory result. Cum Sancto Spiritu set off like a bat out of hell, while Laudamus Te seemed more like a circus trick than an act of worship, testing violinist Matthew Truscott’s intonation to the limit.

Domine Deus, by contrast, though still fleet, allowed the flute obbligatists time to add some neat touches of ornamentation. 

An excellent team of soloists numbered soprano Katherine Watson, tenor Gwilym Bowen, bass Neal Davies, accomplished as ever, and countertenor Iestyn Davies, expressively plangent in the Agnus Dei. The players of the OAE responded admirably to Layton’s spirited direction, a trio of trumpets adding further uplift to several choruses, not least the final exhilarating Dona Nobis Pacem. 


Barry Millington