November 2009: Bach Mass in B Minor

Exeter Cathedral, Thursday 19 November 2009, 7.30pm

One of Bach’s greatest works – imbued with a sense of solid and unshakable faith, at the same time the Mass exudes joy and energy.

Source: Margaret Craigie Smith

From the start this was a cohesive, well-rounded performance in Exeter Cathedral, directed by Nigel Perrin, currently celebrating his 10th year with the Exeter Festival Chorus, and with the baroque orchestra Music for Awhile being led by Margaret Faultless. Both Chorus and Orchestra skilfully conveyed the differing moods of the work.

The soloists who each sang with such brightness, precision and purity were Nicki Kennedy, soprano; David Webb, tenor and a former Head Chorister at the Cathedral; William Purefoy, a counter-tenor with an exceptionally thrilling voice; Darren Jeffery, bass-baritone.

Nigel Perrin’s direction brought a performance which kept a delicate balance between authentic small-scale and the full grandeur of the work, contrasting, for example, the darkness of Crucifixus with Et resurrexit powerfully bursting forth. The measured pace of the final Dona nobis pacem added to the impressive nature of that item. Other details which pleased were the contemplative nature of Et incarnatus est with the original instruments of the orchestra adding to the intimacy of the work.

Source: Extracts from a review by Peter Raby

"From behind the orchestra I had a players' eye view of the conductor. Nigel Perrin has developed the Exeter Festival Chorus for ten years and clearly lives the music. It was a delight to watch his arm and hand movements as he composed a ballet in the air, painting the images he held in his mind for the players to see."

"Then came perhaps the most inspiring of all the parts of this long work. The ‘Sanctus’ rang out like the tolling of a great bell. I could hear the reverberations and harmonic vibrations of the bell and my soul was lifted. Here is the sublime inspiration which transcends human foibles …… and puts us so near the angels."

"The choir proclaimed strong ‘Hosannas’ with all the soloists and then the refreshing clarity of the flute washed our souls with a ‘Benedictus’ in company with the tenor."

"How fortunate we are to live in lovely Devon and to have the occasional uplifting experience like this."