Bach's St John Passion, Norwich
CHRISTOPHER SMITH As the Evangelist, narrating the events of the Passion in German, Stephen Douse gave an accomplished performance at Norwich Cathedral.
As the Evangelist, narrating the events of the Passion in German, Stephen Douse gave an accomplished performance at Norwich Cathedral.
Using a bright, if thin, voice, he varied pace, added a touch of colour for crucial moments and responded to the text with tact as well as sensitivity. He also created emotionally charged moments of profound calm.
Anthony Joule was a dignified and, on occasion, majestic Christus. He also gave a good account of the bass lyric solos, especially the last. But whatever the demands of either authenticity or budgeting, asking him to take on both roles resulted in unfortunate damage to dramatic impact.
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Brisk speeds and a resolutely unemotional interpretation of the chorales were the preferences of the conductor, David Dunnett.
With the full cathedral choirs consisting of two dozen girl choristers, nearly a score of trebles and only 15 men for the three lower parts, problems of balance were perhaps inevitable. They led to some muffling of Bach's most interesting developments in part writing.
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Alison Smart was sprightly in the soprano solos, but Serena Kay had difficulty projecting tone in her lower register. Simon Baggs led the Chameleon Arts Orchestra, and Julian Thomas had the unenviable task of playing the dull-toned little organ.