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Ensemble’s ‘Magnificat’ burst of Bach

Artistic director Andrew Koll conducted the mass ensemble. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / Canberra Bach Ensemble & Australian Baroque Brass. J.S. Bach, “Magnificat BWV 243, 10, 214, 733”. St Christopher’s Cathedral, Manuka. October 13. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

SONGS of the Queens of Heaven and Earth. The Canticle of Mary, Bach’s Latin and German settings of the “Magnificat” are works that everyone should hear again and again, especially when performed by the Canberra Bach Ensemble.

Artistic director Andrew Koll conducted this mass ensemble that included guest concertmaster Bianca Porcheddu; John Foster and his Australian Baroque Brass; Greta Claringbould, soprano; Keren Dalzell, soprano; Maartje Sevenster, alto; Richard Butler, tenor; Andrew Fysh, bass and the Canberra Bach Ensemble (CBE) Choir and Orchestra.

Opening the concert with Bach’s “Magnificat” BWV 243, the ensemble played out flourishes on brass through booming timpani. The clear, strong orchestra and their prominent sound soon built to full volume when the choir entered. The opening section heralding the greatness of the Lord.

This large ensemble and soloists filled with local and national talent were clear and compelling. They put forward this impressive music in impressive style.

Through the 12 parts of the “Magnificat”, haunting instrumental melodies sounded, and many wonderful combinations of voices and solos were heard. All brought together under the knowledgeable ear of Andrew Koll.

The sublime voices of the choir singing the short chorale chant that opens “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” BWV 10 left an indelible mark. This thickly textured work still holds listeners fast to their seats. This bright music for four voices and orchestra is a cantata for the “Feast of the Visitation”.

The rich organ solo, “Fuga sopra il Magnificat” BWV 733, played by James Porteous before the final chorale filled the cathedral with deep lush tones. This happy and spirited work that sung of goodness and love echoed with joy throughout. All parts of this cantata left the near-capacity audience uplifted through their extended applause.

“Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!” BWV 214 is dramatic secular music written for the birthday of Maria Josepha, Queen of Poland and Princess Elector of Saxony in 1733. This nine-part cantata for choir, soloists and orchestra is a masterpiece. It began with a thumping burst from the timpanist Joshua Hill and ringing trumpets. When the choir and orchestra jumped in, the exuberant music overwhelmed with joy.

Ariana Odermatt on harpsichord played a strong part throughout this birthday Cantata, especially when she accompanied soprano Greta Claringbould in the Aria and Recitative “Bellona – Goddess of War”. The refinement in this music and in the playing and singing could not be overstated.

The whole concert was complete with music of the fullest harmony. But, after long applause and many bows, it wasn’t over yet. An encore was called for by the demanding audience. Something this reviewer has never seen at an all-Bach concert.

The ensemble played the opening chorus to the birthday cantata louder and stronger than before, to greater applause. Bravo CBE for an amazing performance. Now onward to the Leipzig Bach Festival in June 2020, where they will surely attract attention.

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