Bach St John Passion
CHRISTOPHER SMITH Snape Maltings
James Gilchrist gave an outstanding performance as the Evangelist in the St John Passion. With a warm voice of ample power and stamina he brought the narrative to life with fluent, flexible pacing and combined clarity with commitment.
He was partnered by James Rutherford, a former Norwich Cathedral chorister now winning an international reputation as a bass. In the role of Christus he was always calm yet authoritative, deeply human though somehow above worldly worries.
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The distinguished soprano Emma Kirkby sang with the neatness and close attention to detail that are always expected of her.
The three other lyric soloists did not do quite so well, though Colin Campbell's final bass contribution caught the right note of consolation.
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Tenor Allan Clayton could not really make much of the middle section of his aria that compares Christ with the rainbow while alto Iestyn Davies was unable to find power enough to proclaim the Lion of Judah.
Under Stephen Leyton the Academy of Ancient Music brought out the character of Bach's orchestration with their period instruments, Reiko Ichise's viola dagamba adding its special tone.
After the rather stodgy introductory chorus the two dozen singers in Polyphony responded readily to the more dramatic moments involving angry crowds or smug high priests.
Though the conductor opted for quite brisk speeds they also managed to bring out a good deal of nuance in the chorales.
This was especially the case in the few instances when they were performed unaccompanied.
For the final lullaby a little more restraint would have enhanced a sensitive interpretation.