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Cambridge Music Festival: The Choir of King’s College and the Academy of Ancient Music.

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The Choir of King’s College joined forces with the Academy of Ancient Music on Wednesday evening to present a programme of 3 almost exactly contemporary Baroque works by J.S.Bach and Vivaldi.

Conductor Daniel Hyde, successor to the late Stephen Cleobury as Director of Music at King’s, had scarcely been in his post a couple of months when the pandemic lockdown brought everything to a halt. So this concert, part of the current Cambridge Music Festival, had an additional significance as the first to take place at King’s since then. In his short introductory remarks, the Revd Dr Stephen Cherry, Dean of King’s, referred to bleak months past, but now rejoiced in what he called a ‘re-forming’ and a ‘re-gathering’ in the sold-out event.

Daniel Hyde. Pic by Ian Douglas.
Daniel Hyde. Pic by Ian Douglas.

As if to take its cue from his optimism the AAM with Leader and soloist Bojan Čičić immediately swept into the uplifting opening statements of J.S.Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor BWV 1041. This well-known and much-loved concerto follows the sombre tread of its adagio with the dancing, irresistible ebullience of an allegro more suited perhaps to a major than a minor key. As ever, Čičić’s artistry and AAM’s flawless accompaniment more than fulfilled their audience’s expectations.

Bach’s Cantata BWV 12 ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’ (weeping, complaining, sorrowing, fearing), initially one of the more disconsolate of his almost 200 Church Cantatas, is partly based on verses from the Gospel of St John, where Christ’s words remind the disciples that the great trials awaiting them will eventually be superseded by joy. The Cantata appropriately reflects a contrast between the sorrowful emotions with which the Sinfonia and Chorus begin the work (the music affectingly imitating falling tears), and those of the three Arias, especially of the highly achieved third which contains a joyful trumpet hymn tune set above a continuo at different pitches to suggest the strength and persistence of faith.

Academy of Ancient Music. Picture: Patrick Allen (52866460)
Academy of Ancient Music. Picture: Patrick Allen (52866460)

AAM’s gifted oboist, Leo Duarte, then joined the wonderful mezzo-soprano, Bethany Horak-Hallett, to duet in the cantata’s first aria. Bethany first impressed this reviewer with her memorable role (again at King’s) two years ago in Eccles’ ‘Semele’. And if something to illustrate the glory of Bach’s music were ever needed then, based on its sheer beauty, this particular delivery of ‘Cross and crown are joined together’, would have to be my choice.

The second aria was the perfect vehicle to display the commanding bass voice of Malachy Frame, while the third combined the beautiful tenor voice of Ruairi Bowen and the musicality of trumpeter Robert Vanryne, both accompanied by the AAM’s impeccable continuo.

Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ is music composed for one of the major liturgical parts in the Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass. Sequences for full choral participation, such as the animated opening (Gloria in excelsis Deo) splendidly performed by the choristers, as throughout, are juxtaposed with deeply reverential passages. At intervals there are prominent roles for accompaniments on solo oboe and on cello accentuating emotive elements of the text, and for solo trumpet prominent in the great paean to the Almighty with which the Gloria concludes.

Bethany Horak-Hallett returned, lending that lovely voice to the ‘Domine Deus, Agnus Dei’’ and ‘Qui sedes’ sections of the composition, preceded by sopranos Alexandra Kidgell and Anita Monserrat duetting beautifully in ‘Laudamus te’, with Alexandra taking a striking solo in ’Domine Deus, Rex caelestis’, again with Leo Duarte’s haunting accompaniment.

What a perfect beginning to the new start we’ve all so longed for, and for so long; performers and audience alike on Wednesday evening sharing in what seemed an unspoken realisation that something so valuable that had been taken away from us was finally being returned.


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