Two great works by 20th century composers rest at the heart of the choir’s latest concert performance
Birmingham Bach Choir mark Passiontide, the final two weeks of Lent, with an inspiring revival of rarely performed choral works by Howells, Tallis, Leighton and more (30 March 2019, St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham).
The concert, which is part of the choir’s centenary celebrations, includes Antonio Lotti‘s timeless Crucifixus, written in the early 1700s by the German-born contemporary of JS Bach, and two motets by Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, Ave Maria and Christus factus est.
Sixteenth century choral composers Thomas Tallis‘ In ieiunio et fletu, and Orlande de Lassus‘ Tristis est anima mea are also included, as is JS Bach’s better known and loved Ruht Wohl, first performed in 1724 in Leipzig, and taken from the second part of his St John Passion.
However, the heart of the programme lies in two 20th century small-scale masterpieces, both with a personal connection to the choir’s longstanding conductor, Paul Spicer.
Kenneth Leighton’s powerfully dramatic cantata Crucifixus pro nobis – a mini Passion for choir, organ and tenor soloist – was written for the choir of New College, Oxford in 1962 and Paul was a boy chorister in its first performance. The almost electrical charge of the music is heightened by the final movement, a setting of Phineas Fletcher’s beautiful words ‘Drop, drop slow tears’, being left completely unaccompanied.
The other great work in the programme is Herbert Howells’ extraordinary Requiem. Written in 1932, Requiem was originally intended for the choir of King’s College Cambridge, but never submitted and remained unpublished until 1980. However, elements of the piece later formed the core of Howells’ large-scale choral and orchestral work Hymnus Paradisi, written as a memorial for his nine-year-old son Michael, who died of polio in 1935. With its unusual structure, the searingly moving Requiem expresses not just deep grief but also eternal hope.
Paul Spicer studied composition under Howells at the Royal College Of Music, London, and went on to publish the definitive biography of the composer, Herbert Howells: Border Lines, in 1998.
Says Paul: “I shall cherish performing the Leighton and Howells again: singing at the premiere of Leighton’s powerful Crucifixus pro nobis was an unforgettable experience for me as a young impressionable boy, while Howells’ Requiem is one of his most powerful works and holds a special place in my heart.”
Birmingham Bach Choir: Music For Passiontide, with tenor Robin Morton, is at St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham, on Saturday 30 March 2019. For tickets and more information, see: www.birmingham.bachchoir.com
Saturday 30 March 2019
Birmingham Bach Choir: Music For Passiontide
St Philip’s Cathedral, Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 2QB
Conductor: Paul Spicer
Birmingham Bach Choir
Tenor: Robin Morton
Organist: Martyn Rawles
Plainchant: Stabat mater
JS Bach: Ruht Wohl (St John Passion)
Bruckner: Ave Maria / Christus factus est
Lassus: Tristis est anima mea
Leighton: Crucifixus pro nobis
Tallis: In ieiunio et fletu
Tickets: available via choir website, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ABOUT BIRMINGHAM BACH CHOIR
As one of the UK’s leading large chamber choirs Birmingham Bach Choir has been contributing to the musical life of the West Midlands since 1919, making it one of the longest established musical groups in the area. Although the main focus is the Baroque period (especially JS Bach), the choir performs music spanning over 500 years including 20th and 21st century works.
2019 is the choir’s centenary, and will be marked by a series of special concerts throughout the year.
“Stunning … great waves of beautifully phrased eloquence … constant fascination” 5 stars – Birmingham Post (reviewing Byrd’s The Great Service, March 2018)
“Sounding awesomely impressive.” 4-stars – Birmingham Post (reviewing Great Russian Sacred Music, November 2016)
“This was a reading luminous in its clarity, exhilaratingly detailed in the fine-etched shaping and balancing of its contrapuntal lines, and delivering diction of unaffected immediacy.” 4-stars – Birmingham Post (reviewing Bach’s B Minor Mass, December 2017)
For more information see: www.birmingham.bachchoir.com
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