Mass in B Minor
Saturday 17 December 2016, Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon
For director Keith Bennett’s swan song after 33 years at the helm, and also to celebrate 40 years of the Paragon Singers, the choir is performing Bach’s Mass in B minor with Florilegium, world-renowned exponents of Bach’s music. Completed the year before the composer’s death the piece is a monument of Western music: from the memorable opening five bars both listener and performer are taken on an intense musical journey. The composing of the Mass dominated the last years of Bach’s life – so much so that he neglected other projects in order to complete it – and is a complex re-working of existing material and newly composed music. The sheer scale of the piece with its four, five, six and eight-part writing for chorus, interwoven with lyrical solo and duet arias, makes this a musical tour de force, unforgettable for both performers and audience.
Review by Antony Corfe
What a grand and wonderful conclusion to Keith Bennett’s Directorship of the Paragon Singers. Memorable in every sense, especially with the underlying orchestral richness of Florilegium and soloists Faye Newton, Jane Hunt, Russell Harcourt, Mark Dobell and Craig Bissex. Little wonder the ecstatic applause from a full house.
Impressive throughout was the choir’s attention to detail giving clarity and spaciousness to the individual leads in complex fugal patterns and the finely measured and consistent articulation.
The richness of sound and structure continued from start to finish, each movement clearly owning and presenting its own particular message. We were lead into this huge work by a magnificent solemnity in the first three utterances of Kyrie followed then by the amazing density of the five-part Kyrie eleison. Two more movements stood out in a way I’d never experienced before. One was the swaying, pealing-bells effect of the Sanctus, underpinned by the basses with their Domine Deus Sabaoth. The other was the way the final movement Dona nobis pacem grew from a quiet almost contemplative corollary to the alto solo Agnus Dei, to a mighty conclusion upheld by thunderously percussive timpani. It was marvellous.