Hallé Orchestra / Elder, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

4.00

No one in the audience at the Hallé's Maundy Thursday performance of Bach's
St John Passion was able to compare Mark Elder's interpretation with that of Hans Richter when this orchestra last programmed it. The
St John has been a particularly long time in coming round again - 103 years, in fact - but was well worth the wait. Sometimes a performance speaks from the heart, directly to the heart. This was one of those rare occasions. Elder secured performances of humanity, intelligence and intensity, allowing the
Passion story to take shape at a pace that was lively enough to keep the attention focused yet never at the expense of the smallest detail. The coughers were silenced, the rustlers and restless stilled, and the large, responsive, audience was drawn in, from the opening chorus to the final chorale.

No one in the audience at the Hallé's Maundy Thursday performance of Bach's St John Passion was able to compare Mark Elder's interpretation with that of Hans Richter when this orchestra last programmed it. The St John has been a particularly long time in coming round again - 103 years, in fact - but was well worth the wait. Sometimes a performance speaks from the heart, directly to the heart. This was one of those rare occasions. Elder secured performances of humanity, intelligence and intensity, allowing the Passion story to take shape at a pace that was lively enough to keep the attention focused yet never at the expense of the smallest detail. The coughers were silenced, the rustlers and restless stilled, and the large, responsive, audience was drawn in, from the opening chorus to the final chorale.

It helped that Timothy Robinson, as The Evangelist, had the qualities of a persuasive story-teller, becoming ever more urgently communicative as the tale unfolded in Neil Jenkins's English translation. Carolyn Sampson brought a dance-like delicacy to her first aria, while Michael Chance wove the sort of magic one associates with Britten's Oberon. Neal Davies filled the role of Jesus with due solemnity, but it was Toby Spence who lent his tenor arias the greatest degree of atmosphere and lyrical spontanteity.

Elder is not a conductor whom one immediately associates with a baroque repertoire and yet, under his unobtrusive but authoritative direction,the Hallé proved itself adept at creating an appropriately different sound world. The string playing was marvellously lucid, coloured by exquisite wind obbligati while the alert and sensitive continuo group was exemplary in its unmannered articulation. The dramatic performance took flight and came across as a thoughtfully effective reflection on - rather than any sort of "authentic" recreation of - Bach's original intentions. The Hallé Choir contributed thrillingly, wholly involved, and involving, from its position on the stage, surrounding the instrumentalists. Despite being a far cry from the currently fashionable one-to-a-part chorus, it succeeded in being both sensitive and fervent, fast-talking its way through the casting of lots for Jesus's clothes, and sublimely radiant in the broad melodic sweep of the bigger, meditative choruses. Choral director James Burton had clearly worked hard to achieve a combination of containment and clarity. The new Hallé Youth Choir added a freshness to the chorales and a touching tenderness to the warm tones of James Rutherford's bass lament, "By dying has Thou conquered death?". After an account as expressive and deeply-felt as this St John, one can only hope that the bigger dramatic pictures of the St Matthew Passion (sung in German, please) and the B Minor Mass will follow soon. The Hallé's audience is hungry for more, and can't wait another century or so.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried