Autumn 2013 – Bach Bruckner Britten

Saturday 16 November 2013   7.30pm   Bath Abbey

Almost all the Bs with Bath Bach Choir: Bach could have been better; Britten was brilliant; Bruckner was bewitching.

And to continue the B theme: A computer glitch in the abbey organ meant organist Marcus Sealy had to substitute Romance sans paroles, by Joseph Bonnet, and Bach’s wonderful Prelude and Fugue in G Minor for two pieces by Guy Bovet – which, as far as I was concerned was even better.

Jesu Meine Freude, one of Bach’s six German motets, won’t go down in history as one of the choir’s finest performances. Much of it was a fine interpretation but there were moments, particularly as the work closed, of insecurity and a harshness of tone.

The fugue section was well worked, crisp and clean; metronomic as Bach would have it; and the phrasing rounded but, whether it was vocal tiredness, or too early in the evening, that harshness began to creep in.

Britten’s Missa Brevis in D was a joy – and the large choir looked to be enjoying it, too. Written initially for boys’ voices, conductor Nigel Perrin, himself a fine chorister, had only the feminine voice at his disposal – but its soaring soprano lines were sweet, true and emotional.

And so to the third ecclesiastical piece, Anton Bruckner’s Mass No 2 in E minor, with the Southern Sinfonia Wind Ensemble. The balance was exactly right and it brought a haunting reverence, with brass and horn and voices in telling thirds. There was a sureness of choral line and dramatic, almost eerie, attention to detail.

But, how sad to see the Abbey barely half full.