The Spitalfields Festival should be praised to the rooftops. So much of its planning and feel is intelligent, and it embraces community in its widest sense. And then there are the wonderful buildings in that part of the city, not least Christ Church, in all its renovated splendour.
Where is there a festival that is more audience-friendly? Concerts are short, taking place at convenient times and quite often repeated of an evening, so gaining double audiences. The formula is a winner, and the risk-takers in charge not only schedule short pieces (even just one minute long) but also allow for repetition of less familiar works within a programme.
The risk-takers have been headed by the composer Jonathan Dove, who for five years - this is his last - has artistically led this festival from strength to strength. How coherent the planning for the double dose of The English Concert - two works by Bach (from his Köthen period) and a work by Dove himself (receiving its London premiere) making up an exquisite hour. We were not to know that the first and last pieces - Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No 4 and Dove's Köthener Messe - were related.
Genevieve Lacy and Marit Ernst-Bock were the feisty recorder players in the Bach, jousting with Andrew Manze who directed from his violin. What could be more beautiful than the "calling" between solo group and orchestra in the slow movement? But the balmy acoustic is both wonderful and treacherous - Manze easily overwhelmed in the third movement, the ensemble occasionally mushy.
A small choir joined for Bach's Jesu meine Freude. A heart-stopping moment was "Gute Nacht", surely one of Bach's greatest pieces, which got me wondering why it isn't a Desert Island Discs staple.
Dove's mass is a conceit: Bach dreams; floating in and out are various pieces - his 4th Brandenburg and an assembly of fragments from The Well-Tempered Klavier. The scoring is the same as Bach's Brandenburg but demands the niftiest of harpsichordists - in this case, David Gordon. Ghosts of Pärt, Fauré and Adams lurk, too, but this is an extremely clever and touching piece.Reuse content