The choir and the soloists gave a truly magnificent performance, exploiting the full range of dynamics and exciting rhythmic changes. The soloists, sopranos Catherine Bass and Esther Levin, counter-tenor Simon Clulow, tenors Luke Phillips and Nicholas Richards and bass Roger Williams stood as part of the choir for the Vespers and nimbly sang some amazing vocal acrobatics. Several members of the choir also sang some solo parts, showing great ability.

The choir was accompanied by an ensemble of baroque instruments, Reading Bach Consort, who with the sweet sound of their gut strings, their mellow sackbuts and curtal and the complementary sound of the organ continuo, evoked another age. The instruments could be heard in dialogue with the singers and added to the rich texture — the complex violin playing was delightful.

The trio of tenor and bass soloists ably set the stage in Monteverdi’s Lamento della Ninfa. Esther Levin’s rendition of this lament was beautiful, passionate and compelling — an exquisite performance. Here was a chance for the audience to really appreciate Angier Hauksson’s theorbo accompaniment.

The Consort played Mathias Weckmann’s Sonatas 8 and 10 which provided a gentle introduction to the second half of the concert. Then the large audience was treated to a very exciting performance of Heinrich Biber’s Requiem in F minor, written in Bohemian baroque style.

The soloists’ voices were well matched for their beautiful duets, more solo voices were added until there was a quintet, the dramatic effect increasing when the whole choir joined them, a repeated feature.

The singers and instrumentalists did full justice to this dramatic and very complex work. It was a musical journey through all kinds of emotions: peace; the rhythmic surprise and turmoil of the Dies Irae; sadness; and finally to the peace and feeling of spiritual uplift given by the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei. The amount of applause showed the appreciation felt by the audience. We have the director, JanJoost van Elburg to thank for enabling his musicians to give us such a fine performance.

Jenny Worthington

Henley Standard 11th February 2009

Reproduced with kind permission of the Henley Standard.