Choir does justice to Bach’s ‘greatest hits’ compilation

Energy: St Peter's Singers were in fine voice at Halifax Minster
Energy: St Peter's Singers were in fine voice at Halifax Minster

St Peter’s Singers of Leeds: Mass in B Minor

Halifax Minster

By Julia Anderson

The Mass in B Minor is effectively a self-selected 1749 compilation of “greatest hits ever” which Bach recycled and arranged from previous cantatas in the year before he died, his aim being to showcase his music at its very best.

What he produced was a monumental masterpiece and the St Peter’s Singers and Chamber Orchestra did it full justice.

Inspired by Simon Lindley’s animated, focused direction the responsive choir with their bright soprano tone and clear articulation were in fine voice.

The opening Kyrie was rich, purposeful and measured, the Gratias Tibi stately and controlled, the Qui Tollis subdued and penitent. The Cum Sancto Spiritu really rocked, the Credo a jaunty, confident affirmation of faith. The superbly sustained Sanctus swung along gloriously just as it should. The Et Resurrexit was an explosion of energy while the concluding Dona Nobis Pacem exuded a majestic serenity.

With Alan Horsley’s continuo and David Houlder, organ, the effortlessly tuneful, rhythmically buoyant orchestral accompaniments were played with great delicacy and refinement. The very exposed horn, trumpet, and woodwind decorations, which add such exuberance to the whole, were flawlessly played.

The soloists were fielded from the choir. Paul Dutton’s unevenly timbred tenor was rather loud and mannered. Quentin Brown, bass, acquitted himself well. Sopranos Anita Wiencelewski and Kristina James blended beautifully and contralto Lucy Appleyard’s dignified delivery perfectly suited her technically demanding arias.