Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields: From Lubeck to Leipzig – The Baroque Cantata from Buxtehude to Bach

Neither a pandemic nor the absence of Competition Director Sergio de Pieri from this 26th feast of high-quality music might cancel Ballarat’s widespread annual early music pageant – this yr a trimmed down particular three day, five-concert occasion that efficiently continued to carry outstanding musicians into the historic venues and organs of the central Victorian area.

Mentioned to be the oldest cathedral in Australia, St Patrick’s Cathedral, with its early Gothic design, cavernous excessive ceilings and facet chapels, can supply a sombre, spiritually reflective and acoustically difficult setting. The theme of this opening recital represented a pilgrimage throughout Europe, with the Cantata being the prayerful reflections of texts set to music.

Opening this system, organist David McFarlane, from the choir gallery, carried out Motion 5 from J.S. Bach’s Organ Sinfonia from the church cantata BWV 35, Geist und Seele wird verwirret (Spirit and Soul grow to be confused). An fascinating translation certainly, though Bach used the organ as a virtuosic solo instrument and McFarlane admirably gave a lot color and thoughtfully distinct instrumentations to the piece; the huge dimension of the cathedral, nevertheless, meant that the bass notes had a pure delay as they travelled to some distant sections of the viewers. We’re fascinated with the distinctive timbre and character of each church organ, however right here, in very “Baroque custom”, the decrease pitched pipe organ required the 5 piece stringed ensemble from Melbourne Baroque Orchestra to be drastically re-tuned and extra securely re-located when McFarlane moved all the way down to the entrance altar live performance setting to play the smaller chamber organ for the central menu.

Bach’s Der Herr denket an uns, BWV 196, often known as The Marriage ceremony Cantata, was very superbly carried out beneath the route of Dr Gary Ekkel. These lighter texts from Psalm 115, filled with blessings and assured joyful expression, allowed the singers to benefit from the acoustic of the nave, demonstrating assured and clear articulation, fluent and musically expressive phrasing. 5 contrasting brief sections carried out with a smaller ensemble got here as a recent and calmly textured presentation, with a most nice instrumental Sinfonia. A powerful and powerfully expressive supply of the aria by soprano Quin Thomson, whose grand higher vary crammed the heavens, was accompanied by delicate baroque violin obligato strains from ensemble chief Lizzie Walsh. Christopher Roache joined Oliver Mann for the comforting tenor and bass Aria, Der Herr segne euch je mehr und mehr, and a last jubilant refrain with an lively and full of life sensible contrapuntal Amen confirmed the technical abilities and maturity of this vocal quartet. Most admirably, Amelia Jones stepped in to the Competition program at simply 48 hours discover, changing the beforehand introduced mezzo-soprano Sally-Anne Russell, so Bach’s Cantata For Trinity Sunday, O Heilges Geist- und Wasserbad, BWV 165, gave Christopher Roache the chance to sing the alto aria Jesu, der aus grosser liebe. His countertenor voice right here was filled with magnificence, youthfulness and purity of tone in its shaping of the textual content. This was a particular second when the viewers was spellbound, immersed in surprise, enjoyment and a way of timelessness.

Two Cantatas by Buxtehude added additional attractive settings of extra severe and solemn texts. Klag-Lied from Fried- und freudenreiche Hinfahrt, BuxWV 76, gave Thomson a central function for this very stunning and sedate work, the place breadth of tone, wealthy quantity, maturity, readability and eloquence impressed. Jesu, meines Lebens Leben, BuxWV 62, additionally revealed the sweetness and virtually romantically colored creativeness of Buxtehude, and a really pleasing steadiness and mix of strings with organ accompaniment gave stunning help to the particular environment offered by every vocalist.

Our religious journey was to finish with the ultimate cantata, Bach’s Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV4, the place the vocalists had been now absolutely at house on this acoustically difficult area. They confirmed terrific ensemble work in Bach’s tough Alleluia chorus, additionally including good punctuation and accents to a rhythmic a cappella stanza (Verse 4) and made essentially the most of vivid tempo modifications. Oliver Mann’s solo for bass was a only efficiency as his lowest notes paired with the organ’s deepest pedal factors, and Bach’s difficult pitch vary took his Alleluia chorus to an alarming however absolutely assured excessive register. In verse 6 Amelia Jones took the principle function along with her celebratory textual content, actually expressing the feast of pleasure, celebration of the Lord’s grace, and enlightening our hearts along with her shining musicality. As we’d anticipate on the opening evening for a Competition, the complete ensemble introduced a buoyant, grand and really harmonious last Alleluia.

Barely curious was the informal apparel for some instrumentalists, whose musical efficiency was so admirable, however comparatively casual gown was a little bit incongruous on this formal Cathedral setting for a gap Competition recital.  The inclusion of the sung Latin texts to this system would even have assisted the viewers in following the printed English verses.

Properly supported in the neighborhood, with such fantastic repertoire, high-quality musical staff and route, this Competition continues to make a novel musical and historic footprint.

Photograph credit score: David Berry.


Julie McErlain reviewed “From Lubeck to Leipzig: The Baroque Cantata – from Buxtehude to Bach”, introduced as a part of Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields at St Patrick’s Cathedral on January 7, 2022.


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