22nd Sep, 2020

Bach gets divine treatment from Armonico Consort and Orchestra at St Mary's in Warwick

Armonico Consort

St Mary’s Warwick

Bach, B Minor Mass

THE FABULOUS setting of St Mary’s had to settle for being a mere backdrop to musical architecture of a divine quality in this stunning, impressive performance from the Armonico Consort and Orchestra.

Fresh from a fine Messiah in the festive run-up, Christopher Monks again directs his forces with pace and a sense of continuity and flow. Soloists find themselves having to step quickly to be in place in time, musicians are cued into action in enough time to obliterate any gap between sections. It’s slick, well-drilled and productive. Ensemble playing at its best and two hours it would have been impossible not to enjoy.

The consort themselves were at their crisp, polyphonic best. Bach’s endless layering can sound mushy. Not so here. There was a clarity and contained togetherness that was a pleasure to hear.

Bach’s mammoth work is packed with moments of beauty, solemnity and constant invention and in this performance there were highlights in almost every individual section.

The vocal soloists were excellent without exception. The generous acoustic of St Mary’s is kind to all voices but perhaps altos more than others this evening. Merce Abello was utterly captivating and Hannah Robinson’s introduction right at the end possibly even raised the bar.

A late illness meant an even later call-up for soprano Julia Doyle but the ease with which she seemed to blend with the accompaniment and during her duets was testament to both her own ability and the solid, coherent quality coming from all areas.

There were a number of fine solo contributions from among the orchestra. The flute solo, in particular, deserves a name check the programme (and therefore this review) has not included. A pity, the lightness of touch in filling so large a space was wonderful.

But if a mention should be given to anyone it should surely go to double bass player Andrew Durban. Like this treasure of a church, Bach’s high-vaulted heavens are built on solid, dependable foundations. The bass never stops throughout and its contribution is as essential as the pillars without which it would all come crashing down.

* Armonico Consort bring their musical collaboration with wine expert Oz Clarke to the Warwick’s Court House on May 19 and return Warwick Arts Centre on June 18 with a programme including Purcell and Pergolesi. Full details from www.armonico.org.uk

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