Show must go on, to hearty acclaim

The Advertiser, Tuesday 14th June 2011

Bring garlands to our local baroque performers and presenters for mounting two substantial programs in two days - one French, one German.

Winter chills nearly scuttled the latter.

Lead soprano Emma Horwood soldiered on, conceding only a fraction of her usual exuberance to an upper respiratory throat infection, and losing none of her trademark accuracy and vocal word-painting.

All hail to Alexandra Stubberfield, heroine of the day. Stepping in at one week's notice to replace the laryngitic second soprano, and on one rehearsal, she sang five demanding motets without blinking.

True, she is familiar with baroque style and also with the style and grace of Horwood, but the works were new to here.

Both sopranos owed much to the solid foundations laid down by the bountiful bass of Thomas Flint.

Praise too for the supportive, occasionally decorative continuo harpsichord of Glenys March and viola da gamba partner Catherine Finnis, and more for violinists Ben Dolman and Emily Dolman.

Every item was indeed a gem, all of them from the acknowledged giants of the pre-classical era. All shone. Some dazzled.

From Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672), Von Gott will ich nicht lassen for three singers, two violins and continuo. Simple music for simple text evolved into complex scoring as the affirmations of faith become deeper.

Half a century later came Dietrich Buxtehude's Cantate Domino, a florid miniature cantata and a new song for then and now.

Three singers plus continuo sailed joyfully through transitions from recitative to aria settings. Similarly varied, his Sonata in G a 3 gave the three strings their chance at undivided attention.

More marvels from Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

How did he make all that beautiful music from only two words, Christe Eleison? Did the parishioners at the Thomaskirche recognise Wann kommst du and Mein freund ist mein as love duets, despite their religious references?

Graze among heaven's roses indeed! Horwood and Flint were the lovers. The third person in these duets was, of course, Jesus Christ.