Tenebrae and the Aurora Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square review ****

st-_johns_smith_square_london_england-interior

Tenebrae and Aurora Orchestra: Bach and Faure

St John’s Smith Square, 12th April 2017

Tenebrae
Aurora Orchestra
Emma Walshe – Soprano
Stephen Kennedy – Baritone
Max Baillie – Violin
Nigel Short – Conductor

Bach – Ach Herr, laß dein lieb Engelein BWV245
Bach – Partita No. 2 in D – Allemande BWV1004
Bach – Partita No. 2 in D – Courante BWV1004
Bach – Christ lag in Todesbanden BWV277i
Bach – Partita No. 2 in D – Sarabande BWV1004
Bach – Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt BWV277ii
Bach – Partita No. 2 in D – Gigue BWV1004
Bach – Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden BWV244
Bach – Ciaconna with chorale themes BWV1004
Fauré – Requiem (1893 version)

So I put a shift in for Holy Week with this, a Verdi Requiem and a Bach St John Passion. To be clear my interest is solely musical. I am afraid I am unlikely to shift from my firm atheistic position despite spending an inordinate amount of time now in churches, cathedrals and, occasionally, other places of worship, and also listening now to a disproportionate amount of music initially composed with a religious purpose.

So first off was this intriguing mix of Bach and Faure. I have seen the Aurora Orchestra a couple of times at Kings Place but this was the first time at SJSS. They are the band that plays key bits of the canon from memory which is a sight in itself. And this was the first time I have heard Tenebrae. Now I am a bit of a sucker for the atmosphere that SJSS conjures up, especially in the evening and with a bit of candlelight, as we had here. Sorry I know how shallow this sounds, but if you do chance upon something you like the sound of here, then I guarantee you won’t be let down by the acoustic or the surroundings. And you get a seat not a pew, vital for those of us at the elevated end of the posterior scale.

Anyway it took me a bit of time to adjust to the mix of the Bach Partita No 2 being interspersed with the Bach chorales, but once ears and head were there I was gripped. Now I cheerfully admit I have only just got going on the Bach discovery road. So the chorales on show here were new to me and, whilst I have a recording of the Partitas by Rachel Podger, I haven’t yet digested it. Anyway the thing is this Partita is a jolly affair based on dances and you get the usual Bach solo instrument thing of “how on earth is there so much going on when there is just one bloke/lady playing”. I am sure I have seen Max Baillie, the lead violinist for Aurora, do some solo work before, but I cannot remember what and where. Anyway he was fabulous. As was the Tenebrae choir with the chorales. Terrific stuff. Still no idea what I am listening too musically and the programme notes went right over my head but no matter. Have a quick peek here at one of the funkiest bits.

Bach Partita No 2 in D Minor BWV 1004 Giga

Now I will say this very quietly. I had never heard the Faure Requiem live before and don’t own a recording. Following this I get why people rave about it though it may not be entirely my cup of tea. There are some ravishing bits, the Kyrie, Offertoire and the In Paradisum ending (with the twiddly organ bit like an 80s synth band), and the lower register of the instrumentation is very appealing, but there’s a little bit of sweetness in the mix which is not for me. And I would probably prefer a slightly quicker run through than this performance offered. But all up I get it so don’t start shouting at me and I will get a recording asap. In fact the nice lady next to me at the concert pointed out that Tenebrae have recorded this very programme with the LSO and I spy a fairly priced offer from my friends at musicMagpie (along with dodax-online my choice of online retailer for CDs).

So all in all another winner.

 

 

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