Monteverdi Choir/ English Baroque Soloists/ Gardiner, Christ Church Spitalfields

4.00

Over at Christ Church Spitalfields, as part of the annual Winter Festival, John Eliot Gardiner has been serialising Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

Actually Bach did so long before him, separating the cantatas within the larger work and performing them over several days. But Gardiner has added a motet and a Brandenburg Concerto to his twice-nightly Christmas fare, leaving appreciative congregations in no doubt as to the abiding joy and astonishing diversity of J.S. Bach's music.



His Monteverdi Choir are true specialists and with the Motet "Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden" ("Praise ye the Lord, all ye nations") they offered an object lesson in articulation with expressive purpose. The lightness and uplift of the counterpoint was so refreshing. Just the way these voices can ride rhythms, deflecting the weight of attack and subtly nuancing the dynamics, is a pleasure for anyone with an ounce of musicality to behold. Celestial cloud-hopping might be one way of describing the jubilant outer sections of this particular motet but with the words "For all that his grace and his truth have power over us for evermore" Bach's music and Gardiner's choir paused for reflection, the sound swelling through one glorious harmonic suspension to a moment or two of real spiritual contentment.



A pity, then, that we had to pause so long for a BBC platform rearrangement before the crisp, clean, dulcet tones of two recorders (Rachel Beckett and Catherine Latham) played musical tag with their string counterparts in the Fourth of Bach's Brandenburgs. Fugues can be fun, or so said this performance shrugging off the lachrymose sighs of the slow movement to revel in the toe-tapping and ever resourceful interplay of the finale. Kati Debretzeni's earthy first fiddle got stuck into the earnest passage work and bristling trills leaving inhibition at the vestry door.



But then there were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night, and a chorus of oboes lending their rustic timbre to a gently bucolic pastorale. At the heart of the Second Cantata of Bach's Christmas Oratorio is the Nativity, and at the heart of the Nativity is the Angel's heaven-sent lullaby over the manger. Clare Wilkinson sang this with humbling simplicity accentuating the miraculous sustaining notes that fall like benedictions over the Virgin's boy child. Bach nurtures this tender aria two-fold to maximise the impact of the ensuing song of praise where Gardiner's "heavenly host" encircled the English Baroque Soloists to belie their small numbers in resounding counterpoint.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen