“Bach fills the space between God and people”, or as Berlioz said: “Bach is Bach, as God is God.”
Who better to inspire with Bach’s “St John Passion” than Jeffrey Skidmore and his Ex Cathedra singers and Baroque orchestra. This close-knit group of fine musicians pulled out all the stops even to the extent of using soloists from within the choir who discreetly stepped forward to deliver the story in the bright lights of Symphony Hall – complete with English surtitles.
These fine performers never fail to delight with their seemingly effortless musicality: lovely smooth phrasing, immaculate entries and drama moving the audience to awed emotions. Young members of Ex Cathedra’s Academy of Vocal Music were also included in the large choruses, thus experiencing German language and adding an extra thread to the overall effect.
Tenor Jeremy Budd as the Evangelist approached his mammoth task with power – his understanding of the unfolding drama communicated totally with the listeners, whilst Marcus Farnsworth’s resonant bass was perfect for the depiction of Jesus and Amy Wood’s pure soprano was a joy.
Great care was taken not to overpower such as the young alto, Matthew Venner, although some of Samuel Boden’s more gentle tenor tones were slightly overwhelmed at the end of some phrases.
The familiar story was supported by magical interweaving from various mellow baroque instruments (often brilliantly spirited): woodwinds, busy cellos, violin, rare gentle lute, plus the chamber organ, they all added their own appeal.