It was an ambitious undertaking; two settings of “Magnificat” written 250 years apart (J S Bach and Arvo Pӓrt) and Pӓrt’s “Magnificat-Antiphonen”. And they were not performed in sequence, but intertwined to make a single work, full of contrasts.
Coro, under the masterful direction of David Mackay, sang the modern works a capella, while a chamber orchestra, led by Barbara Jane Gilby, accompanied the Bach.
Overall, this unusual concert was successful, particularly the very thoughtful programming.
There was a quandary though. The Bach needed a more reverberant space. But the good if rather dry acoustic of All Saints was perfect for the Pӓrt with the audience able to enjoy the space between the notes, exactly as Pӓrt intended.
At times the tempi in the Bach wandered a little and some of the slower movements dragged a bit. But the soloists acquitted themselves admirably in their very challenging pieces.
The Pӓrt elements were this concert’s strength. The choir maintained the unaccompanied pitch beautifully and really excelled in creating mystery and anticipation.
The concert opened with a string quartet building volume from almost imperceptible sounds in Pӓrt’s “Fratres” and concluded just as quietly with Gilby’s beautifully expressive performance of the Allemande from Bach’s “Partita No 2” for solo violin.
After many curtain calls for Mackay, the capacity audience got a reprise of the Bach opening chorus, ending this thoroughly enjoyable concert with a rousing flourish.