Celestial Bach - my highlight so far of this Prom season. Bach’s Mass in B minor sung by The English Concert and choir conducted by Harry Bicket was virtuosic and always subtle, fluid and dynamic. A heavenly pleasure.
The superlatives run out. A Baroque orchestra and small and very proficient choir filling the Royal Albert Hall with heavenly counterpoint that claims the rapt attention of the entire audience, seated and promenading.
And what a different audience to the audiences for Mahler and Walton earlier in the week. Bach’s Mass in B minor drew in the younger fans, particularly in the promenade arena. Myself having left off promenading for the past (ahem!) twenty years or so, it has been noticeable this year how much the population of the promenaders is skewed towards the baby-boomers, now early pensioners. Back in the nineteen-eighties, my impression is that promenaders were overwhelmingly twenties and thirties. Why the difference?
Partly there is much less classical music, indeed any music, in most schools. And those twenties and thirties who are interested come first to the relatively approachable (and superficially tonic) pieces like the Mass in B minor. Maybe there is more taste in this group for “mathematical” music like Bach than “romantic” music like Walton or Mahler.
I encountered tonight a promenader whose first visit to the arena had been in 1961. I enjoyed hearing his stories about how the promenader procedure has changed: a season ticket was actually a book of tickets, one for each concert. So it was relatively easy to swap tickets, which seemed to happen a lot in the arena during the interval. ID photos on the current season ticket has stopped that one...
J. S. Bach: Mass in B minor
Joélle Harvey, soprano
Carolyn Sampson, soprano
Iestyn Davies, counter-tenor
Ed Lyon, tenor
Matthew Rose, bass
Choir of the English Concert
The English Concert
Harry Bicket, conductor