High Standards in Bach Mass from Ludus Baroque

09/08/2014

  Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 (2) – Bach,  B Minor Mass: Ludus Baroque, Richard Neville-Towle, (conductor), Canongate Kirk, 07.08.2014 (SRT)

Ludus Baroque comes together only a few times a year.  They always do the B minor Mass at the Fringe and, normally, the Christmas Oratorio in December.  They normally precede the B minor mass with a piece of Handel (which has led to some very successful recordings in the past): there was none of that this year, though one chorus member did mention to me that last night they did Handel’s Athalia in Perth, which is no bad thing as Edinburgh isn’t exactly short of things to do in August.

Most of the players and many of the singers are professional musicians so, for a glorified scratch band, the musical standards are extremely high, with pungent winds, sinuous strings and shiny brass, though the timpanist tended to be a little too enthusiastic!  The chorus, too, made a wonderful sound, particularly the tenors who sounded crisp and exciting, and the whole choir was satisfyingly secure on top.

The young quartet of soloists was also very strong, especially soprano Anna Dennis and counter tenor Andrew Radley, whose voices blended beautifully in the Christe and Et in ununm Dominum.  Ed Lyon made a bright tenor, though I’ve never warmed to William Berger’s baritone which, to me, lacks a core, particularly at the bottom.

Music Director Richard Neville-Towle kept the whole thing flowing at an admirable pace, but this didn’t hold up the progress of the stately flow in, say, the Kyrie, and there was a pleasing sense of one-in-a-bar at the big moments, such as Et resurrexit and Et expecto.

 The whole thing sounded magnificent in the airy space of Canongate Kirk, the Queen’s parish church in Edinburgh, specially tailored to the acoustic which is spacious yet intimate.  In short, the concert was a triumph: an excellent evening of music making, and the International Festival hasn’t even begun yet!

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe continues until 25th August at a range of venues across the city.  For full details click here.

Simon Thompson

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