Classical Music: A passion for Easter
Radio and television round-up
Friday 12 April 1996
The relationship between serious music and the TV camera has often been an uneasy one. Rare is the director who doesn't succumb to the temptation to put visual demands before musical. Even the greatest music can become background support to fussy camerawork when concerts or operas are televised, and the danger is even greater when a composer's work is used to add colour to a biographical or documentary film about him.
Miller's remarkable treatment of the St Matthew Passion avoided all these pitfalls. Restrained yet powerful in its visual imagery, it allowed the music full rein and Bach's tremendous range of vision and musical techniques made an overwhelming impression. The camera remained tightly focused on the small groups of individuals even in the elaborate choral sections, and this, far from straitjacketing the music, allowed the mind of the viewer to range widely. The players were as dramatically involved as the singers, and obbligato instrumentalists received full camera treatment, bringing Bach's complex musical designs and textures movingly to life.
The overall impression was of a group of youthful, earnest and deeply committed friends immersing themselves in Bach's mighty invention, rather than "performing", and one could not but be touched by it. It was intimate, devotional yet searing, too, and, when the narrative called for it, heartachingly dramatic.
As for the actual singing and playing under the direction of Paul Goodwin, this was in the authentic manner with old instruments and brisk tempos. Once or twice the music's need to breathe was denied, and sometimes cadences were a little curt, but all in all the performance was finely paced. Richard Jackson was a warmly impressive Christ, and Rufus Mueller a magisterial Evangelist.
A few hours later, Radio 3 offered us a hardly less gripping experience in the first of two programmes devoted to Easter music by Josquin Despres. The 250 years that separate Josquin's art from that of Bach bring us to a vastly different intellectual and spiritual world, yet the power of Despres's music reveals a commensurate mastery of compositional science and, if at several removes from our current understanding of the term, an equally astonishing breadth of style. Rebecca Stewart and Cappella Pratensis had us hanging on every phrase in two magnificent motet sequences which communicated burningly across the five intervening centuries.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 2 iOS 8 is full of shiny new features - but it's terrible news for app developers
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Cocaine and cannabis haul hidden in Vatican car seized by French police
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cast in new Channel 4 drama about cyber bullying
Downton Abbey: Liam Neeson wants to be a stableman in period drama
Star Wars 7 leaked set photo of Adam Driver changes everything
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without the influential comedy series
The Walking Dead season 5 synopsis: Spoilers and existential questions abound
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'