Bach St John Passion, The Choir and Orchestra of St Olave’s Church, York, St Peter’s School Chapel, March 6 THE Choir and Orchestra of St Olave’s took on the first of Bach’s remaining Passions, the St John. While shorter than the Matthew Passion, it still remains a challenge for any musicians.
Conductor Keith Wright led a small orchestra and choir who, nonetheless, provided a confident sound in the louder moments. The chorales, which add moments of textural clarity throughout, were always assured: here the assembled musicians shined.
The opening orchestral figurations, however, lacked direction; the flowing woodwind layers were hidden, and the dynamism present in the music was simply not brought out.
Later moments benefited from a greater sense of purpose, especially when the soloists were leading the action. The alto aria Es Ist Vollbracht (It Is Fulfilled) showed the orchestra giving subtle shading to their crucial role, while soloist Adam Piplica provided a moving focus. The presence of the viola da gamba (Naomi Meredith) gave a pleasing variety of colour.
Matthew Thomas Morgan’s Evangelist grew in confidence; by the end, it was clear his role was a vital part to the success of the performance. Clive Goodhead provided a solid counterpart as Pilate.
When soloists and chorus interacted in the more dramatic parts, the pacing was well controlled and the operatic nature of the work brought to the fore. Overall, a greater degree of orchestral shaping would have helped maintain the quality that was clearly present.