Review: Bach’s B Minor Mass

Norwich Cathedral

The Cathedral Consort and five soloists joined with Norwich Baroque, led by James O'Toole and with tireless Phililp Trzebiatowski as continuo cello, to tackle one of Bach's mightiest works. His Mass in B Minor asked a lot of the singers.

They responded with a will, but had some difficulty in bringing out the interplay between different parts of the chorus that is needed to show the architecture of Bach's structures.

Though there was a good deal of volume, it was not matched by depth of tone. This sometimes upset the balance with the orchestra.

All the forces under conductor David McKee came together most convincingly in the first, more human sections of the Creed. The opening affirmations had unanimity and confidence. Then a sharing of tender emotions created a powerful contrast with outbursts of joy proclaiming the resurrection.

The next section was the beautiful baritone aria affirming faith in the Holy Ghost. Sung with fluent elegance by Alexander Learmonth, it was the most pleasing of the solos.

The final movements of the Mass were taken at a brisk pace. The consequence was some feeling of catch as catch can in the Hosanna, and the final prayer for peace did not have all its comforting serenity.