Review by Nola Bartolo
I need to come clean and declare straight up that this is the very first time I have been an audience member of a performing Orchestra and Choir, let alone a reviewing audience member. So, I do not claim to understand the level of work involved to put on such an exquisite performance such as J.S. Bach at Easter – Missa Brevis in F. But I was witness to talent that gave me more than goosebumps. Clearly there is years and years of practice and dedication.
Easter. What a beautiful time Easter is. It is one of the most special times of the calendar year, offering us all an opportunity to reflect, celebrate, and come together as a community. This was the Bach Akadamie’s first concert of 2023, and they focused on Bach’s music for Easter. This incredibly important time of year provided Bach with compositional opportunities unequalled except maybe for Christmas.
The concert began with Bach’s cheerful and celebratory Easter Cantata BWV 66 ‘Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen’. Sitting inside the beautiful and sacred space of St Francis of Assisi in Paddington was glorious and truly fitting for such a concert. Madeleine Easton set the joyous tone and the whole orchestra and choir followed her playful and positive direction. They all moved with the joy that the music portrayed. Stephanie Dillon and Richard Butler sang with such sweet beauty the Aria and Recit. They both stood out for me.
This was then followed by the intimate and tender funeral Motet ‘Komm, Jesu, komm’ BWV 229. (Come, Jesus, Come.) The smaller Choir who comprised of Susannah Lawergren, Stephanie Dillon, Richard Butler, Andrew Fysh, Brianna Louwen, Hannah Fraser, Timothy Reynolds and Jack Stephens were outstanding. I am not sure that I felt sadness though in this piece, I still had such joy within listening to this haunting funeral song.
To crown the Easter celebration, the company performed Bach’s brilliant ‘Missa Brevis’ in F major, written in the last decade of J.S Bach’s life. The piece, Intended for Good Friday, and containing only the Kyrie and Gloria, is one of his 4 short ‘Lutheran Masses’, nonetheless a fabulously virtuosic and substantial work of genius featuring 2 French horns, oboes and full choir, meriting Bach with the title of one of the greatest who ever lived. It really does merit that title. It left me wanting to hear more from this genius.
I truly enjoyed this stunning presentation of such extremely beautiful and delicate music, written at a time where Church and State were one. It was refreshing and felt sacredly special to be sitting in such a pretty Sydney Church listening to such music of joy, loss, grief, reflection and celebration. For me it allowed an opportunity to reflect on my own beliefs and opportunities of internal and spiritual growth in a world at times that can feel riddled with fear, hatred, judgement and opinion. The music, the setting, and the sacred aspects all blended in beautifully to allow the space we as humans need, to simply enjoy music, voice and the talented performers and musicians bringing love to life. This will not be my last.