L'ARCADIA and soprano Ulrike Hofbauer performed a re-run of The Thomaskirche Contenders on Sunday night.

The contenders for the same position at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig were Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Friedrich Fasch and Christoph Graupner, but did the best man win?

The contest opened with Telemann’s Lauter Wonne, Lauter Freude and the richly ornamented vocal line was wonderfully articulated by Ms Hofbauer.

The performance of both excerpts of the Cantatas had a delightful dramatic quality as well as musical refinement. Indeed, if this was simply a musical beauty contest then the performance of the composer’s Paris Quartet, brimming with charm and musical intelligence, would have won the day.

In the heavyweight champion Bach’s sonata from The Musical Offering, the ensemble was joined by violinist Martin Jopp. The opening Largo was gently, but majesterially delivered. Indeed, this musical authority shone throughout the work as a whole, the dialogue between the players had a natural, easy chemistry. A good case was made for Mr Fasch, the playing in his Trio Sonata in D major was typically fresh, rhythmically razor sharp and generated a sumptuous sound world which was both inviting as well as infectious.

Again, Ms Hofbauer brought a telling dramatic effect to the recitatives in Graupner’s Gott Hat Sein Reich in unsern Seelen, but it was the seductive exchanges with violinist Martin Jopp which stayed in the memory. That and the exquisite cadence of the second aria. And, come to think of it, the outrageous vocal demands of the second recitative.

The winner? The ayes to the right said Bach, but it was a close call.

Steve Crowther