Beautifully balanced sound of the Baroque - The Leamington Observer

Beautifully balanced sound of the Baroque

Leamington Editorial 22nd Mar, 2023   0

Ex Cathedra, St Mary’s, Warwick

 

EX CATHEDRA have been here before. Not just to Warwick and the inspiring acoustics of St Mary’s, but to this rich material. And very much at home they are too.

The Baroque period, in which the choir and its conductor Jeffrey Skidmore must surely stand as pre-eminent experts, saw the flowering of choral polyphony with many of the greatest works inspired by the story of the passion.




In this intelligently curated selection the choir offered a generous sequence of works from a span of 200 years or more, from the pens of composers across Europe, all subtly different but all linked by being simply beautiful.

Heralded at the start of each half by a brief burst of Bach’s solo cello works, the choir moved at a perfect pace throughout, accompanied by organ and a pairing of bass and cello.


The programming gave us longer pieces to conclude each half. The Scarlatti Stabat Mater which concluded the first half was worth the evening alone, sung with such balance and precision even when the dynamics drop to deathly quiet. The Bach motet which ended the second half by contrast exuded an up-beat swagger and confidence which fairly bounced around the walls of the church.

The highlight though, if pushed, was the sequence centring on two intricately serpentine pieces from Monteverdi with Carissimi’s poignant, heartrending Lament to follow. If there has been a better, more moving twenty minutes of music-making in the history of this series then it doesn’t spring readily to mind.

This concert, like a few which have taken place recently at St Mary’s, featured a programme of music delivered without applause at the end of each offering. While there were many points, particularly in the second half, when the performance was sufficient to justify an ovation, it’s clear that the preservation of the sombre, highly-moving atmosphere adds to the whole. Endless bringing players to their feet and bowing would, without doubt, have taken away the magic of a very special evening.

The Leamington Music Festival returns at the end of April. For details of that and all concerts visit leamingtonmusic.org

 

 

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