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Choirs bring out the best in Bach

The full ensemble, conducted by Dan Walker. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Immortal Bach”, Canberra Choral Society and Luminescence Children’s Choir. At All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie, September 16. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

THE history and provenance of JS Bach’s motets remain shrouded in mystery to this day.

From within the known collection, there are several doubtful attributions and it is not known how many he wrote. Nevertheless, they remain favourites among choirs and audiences.

The program commenced with two motets. First, the Canberra Choral Society sang “Komm, Jesu, Komm” (Come, Jesus, come). It was an excellent choice to open the concert and the singers’ voices filled the church powerfully and with great beauty.

It was followed by “Der Geist Hilft” (The Spirit Helps), surprisingly joyful and lilting, even though it had been written for a funeral. Both works were written for two-part choirs and it was fascinating to hear the contrapuntal interplay as the musical material passed from one group of singers to the other.

Then the Luminescence Children’s Choir sang “Bist Du Bei Mir” (If you are with me). This work, from the 1725 collection known as the Anna Magdalena Notebook, is based on an aria by German composer Gottfried Stölzel, a contemporary of Bach. The children sang this beautiful, melodic work with clarity and an appealing sweetness.

They followed it with “Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten” (We hurry with weak yet eager steps), originally a soprano and alto duet from Bach’s Cantata no. 78. Again, it was nicely sung and it was notable that the children sang both works in German from memory.

Bach’s motet, “Jesu Meine Freude” (Jesus, My Joy) was then sung by the combined choirs. This work, one of the most popular and widely performed of his motets, was given a strong performance by the choirs. The parts featuring the children’s voices were haunting and sung with sensitivity and the combined voices of both choirs was powerful, especially in the “Gute Nacht, o Wesen” (Good night, o earthly existence) and the finale of the work.

Both choirs also sang the Final Chorus from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”, giving it a colourful and emotional performance and the concert ended with the Canberra Choral Society singing a fourth motet, “Lobet Dem Herrn” (Praise The Lord). This joyful, triumphant work was given a rousing performance by the choir.

Conductor, Dan Walker, achieved great results from both choirs and also provided witty, down-to-earth comments on the music. Anthony Smith, organ, and Lindy Rekstein, continuo, also provided fine support.

 

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