Aldeburgh Easter Festival

Tony CooperSnape Maltings and Orford ChurchTony Cooper

Snape Maltings and Orford Church

The festival celebrated the human voice in a varied programme of sacred vocal music spanning three centuries.

During a weekend packed with musical treasures, the concert by Ensemble Diderot at Orford Church was a hidden gem.

This group of young period instrumentalists fresh from the leading European colleges is gaining a widespread reputation for its virtuoso performances and unusual repertoire. The performers warmed up an audience still chilly from the coastal breezes with a sparkling programme of German Baroque, interspersing unfamiliar pieces by Bach, Handel and Telemann with works from their lesser-known contemporaries.

Johann Gottlieb Janitsch's Quadro in G minor, based on the Lutheran Passion chorale, O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded, introduced the instru-mental line-up of two violins, cello, oboe and harpsichord, while the fast-rising Portuguese tenor Fernando Guimar�es found the perfect showcase for his impressive vocal range in cantatas by Daniel Eberlin and Nicolaus Bruhns, the latter providing the thrilling climax to a stand-out concert.

The festival opened with Aldeburgh favourites The Sixteen making the most of Snape's remarkable acoustic in a programme of English sacred music by the Tudor composers Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and John Sheppard. The music ranged from a simple plainchant process-ional to the sonic complexities of Sheppard's Media Vita in Morte Sumus, an extraordinarily expansive and expressive work that drew one of the finest performances of the night from the singers under their charis-matic conductor, Harry Christophers.

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The Britten-Pears Orchestra brought the weekend to a triumphant close with spirited performances of Beethoven's Symphony No 4 and Haydn's Harmoniemesse, directed by Antonello Manacorda. For the latter it was joined by the combined forces of the Britten-Pears Chamber Choir and Anton Bruckner Choir and an outstanding quartet of soloists: Sarah Barnes, Daniela Lehner, Ben Johnson and Lukas Kargi. They did full justice to Haydn's joyful, uplifting score and sent the audience home skipping like Easter bunnies.

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