All Night Vigil
9 July 2011
Birmingham Bach Choir
The Hagley Road Oratory is the perfect venue for a performance of Rachmaninov's
sublime, incense-laden All Night Vigil and Saturday's account of these
Vespers from the Birmingham Bach Choir rolled majestically around the
walls of this Byzantine building before the roof sent the sound back
down to a rapt audience.
Paul Spicer's pacing of this enthralling score allowed all the detail
to tell, all the harmonic textures (right down to cavernous basses)
to come through, and the sheer swaying ecstasy of this music (all Rachmaninov-lovers
must surely realise how close generally is his melodic inspiration to
the stepwise movement of plainchant) to captivate us all.
What a pity, then, that every movement had to be preceded by retuning
of the unaccompanied chorus by Spicer's pitch-pipe, and that a sit-down
break for the singers had to be included midway through.
The first half of this lovely concert brought motets by James MacMillan
(testosterone-filled, compared to the wan sacred music of John Tavener)
and Bach, of which Komm, Jesu, Komm! was delivered so gorgeously that
I wished it never had to end.
15 July 2011