With the full-scale drama of Andrew Perkins' Christchurch Vespers coming up later, a selection of a cappella items made an effective opening for Bach Musica's Sunday concert. Three settings of Elizabeth and Jacobean poets by Keith Statham were pleasant enough partsongs, treating the words of Shakespeare, Edmund Waller and George Herbet with chordal reverence and conducted with sensitivity by Rita Paczian.
Mozart's G major Piano Concerto K 453 is one of his most ingratiating, full of graceful invention, with particularly lovely woodwind writing that inspired the Bach Musica players to give of their best.
Struggling with acoustics that seemed to conspire against the clarity this music needs, Grace Francis was a cool and elegant soloist. Lines were immaculately shaded, ripples dispensed with stylish nonchalance; we really felt the pathos of minor key dramas in the Andante and thrilled to a brilliant full-scale cadenza later in that movement.
Andrew Perkins' 45-minute Christchurch Vespers is a major undertaking for Bach Musica. Apart from choir and orchestra, Perkins calls for extras from vibraphone and organ to Indian tambura for what he has described as a "Persian carpet of sound."
Alas, once again, thanks to the building's acoustics, some of the colour was drained from it. Too often, one felt the need for a more generous string contingent and more fully scored passages, starting with the Loquebantur, registered as undifferentiated washes of sound, in which rustling harp often played a prominent part.
The piece had set off quietly with hypnotic tambura accompanying a skilful blend of plainsong-like writing and eastern chant.
It was here that we first encountered soprano Gina Sanders, who provided a dramatic and artistic anchor throughout the piece with her incisive contributions'.
Memorable moments were mainly vocal, from the overlapping phrases early in Laudate pueri to the choir clustering protectively behind Sanders later in the movement; and the clearly demarcated structure of Lucis Creator optime, verse by verse, each with distinctive vocal colouring, had a lucidity that sometimes did not come out in the work's more extrovert pages.
What: Bach Musica
Where: Holy Trinity Cathedral