City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

J. S. Bach Christmas Oratorio Review


By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 05 December 2009

4
Christ's birth by anonymous 18th Century painter
Show Details
Venue: 
Canongate Kirk
Company: 
Ludas Baroque
Performers: 
Richard Neville-Towelle (conductor), Augusta Hebbert (soprano), Robin Blaze (alto), Ed Lyon (tenor), William Berger (bass), members of the Ludas Baroque Chamber Orchestra and Chorus
Running time: 
180mins

The elegant 17th century Canongate Kirk, situated in the Royal Mile, is a perfect location for a baroque concert and on Wednesday the Ludas Baroque Chamber Orchestra, founded and conducted by Richard Neville-Towle (the church organist), performed Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

Consisting of 6 parts, the Oratorio was written in 1734 and takes us on a musical journey to celebrate the birth of Christ and concludes with the adoration of the Magi for the Feast of Epiphany.

Narrated throughout by a tenor Evangelist the composition abounds with emotional intensity, particularly in the soaring choral passages.

It is a pleasure listening to Bach's music being played on original baroque instruments especially when they were of the calibre of the musicians of the Ludas Baroque ensemble, notably Mark Baigent on oboe and Stephen Keavy on trumpet. 

The singers too were marvellous. The tenor Ed Lyon was the Evangelist narrator; the alto part, usually sung by a woman, was on this evening sung by the countertenor Robin Blaze, whose rendition of the aria 'Schlafe mein Liebster' was quite beautiful; the rich baritone voice of William Berger and the powerful soprano voice of Augusta Hebbert.

The chorus, run by the choral master Will Dawes, were flawless.

Richard Neville-Towle, a devotee of Bach's choral music, conducted with aplomb to ensure that it was a memorable evening.