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St Matthew Passion, The Bach Choir, Royal Festival Hall | reviews, news & interviews

St Matthew Passion, The Bach Choir, Royal Festival Hall

St Matthew Passion, The Bach Choir, Royal Festival Hall

The Bach Choir prove that with repetition comes wisdom not tedium

James Gilchrist: Wishing the speediest of recoveries to this Godfather of English vocal lyricism

As Handel’s Messiah is to Christmas so the music of Bach is to Lent. Every Passiontide churches and concert halls are flooded with performances that include everything from dainty consort renderings of the St John Passion to choral societies delivering all but symphonic St Matthew Passions. Mightiest of all, however, is The Bach Choir’s annual concert. Performed on Palm Sunday to a reliably sold-out Royal Festival Hall, it’s a fixture of over 80 years' standing and a rare opportunity to hear the work sung in English. Love or hate the vernacular approach, it’s hard to argue with the sheer force of almost 200 singers accompanied by a gloriously inauthentic, 50-strong incarnation of Florilegium.

To see Gilchrist, veteran of Passion performances, visibly lost in the weeping phrases of the opening chorus, said it all

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