Editorial Board

London Editor:
(London UK)
Melanie Eskenazi

Regional Editor:
(UK regions and Worldwide)
Bill Kenny

Bill Kenny

Music Web Webmaster:

Len Mullenger


Classical Music Web Logs

Search Site With Google 

WWW MusicWeb

MusicWeb is a subscription-free site
Clicking  Google adverts on our pages helps us  keep it that way

Seen and Heard Concert Review

J.S. Bach, Weimar Cantatas:  The Purcell Quartet: Emma Kirkby  (soprano) Michael Chance (countertenor) Peter Harvey (bass)  Wigmore Hall, London, 20 .5 2007.   (ME)


The still-controversial idea that Bach’s chorus was made up of just four singers, first given detailed exposition by Joshua Rifkin, could not have more persuasive advocates that the Purcell Quartet and the distinguished soloists who have joined them in their series of recordings of the Cantatas: they have already recorded the Mühlhausen set, and they are just about to begin recording part of the material given in this evening’s concert, so it was hardly surprising that this was a highly polished and deeply committed example of music-making. The Wigmore was gratifyingly packed solid.

I first heard the evening’s central work, Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (BWV 21) in the recording by the Munich Bach Choir and Orchestra under Karl Richter, with Edith Mathis and Fischer-Dieskau as the soloists, and whilst I still consider this the benchmark by which other recordings may be judged, both the playing by the Purcell Quartet and the singing of Peter Harvey and Charles Daniels were the equal of their illustrious predecessors. This cantata, so full of anguish yet finally achieving peace, is one of Bach’s most highly dramatic works, and this performance of it emphasized its operatic quality whilst respecting its devotional sensibility: the playing was crisp, almost eerily well synchronized and sharply phrased, and it was matched by choral singing of wonderful ease and solo work of exceptional sensitivity. Charles Daniels’ voice may not always reveal a youthful lustre, but his plaintive, eloquent pleas in ‘Ach Jesu, meine Ruh’ and his rapturous singing of ‘Erfreue dich, Seele’ left little to be desired. Peter Harvey’s is one of those voices which makes you imagine that if there were to be a voice of God, this is what it would sound like: his mellow, consoling tone, his superb phrasing and his fluency with taxing melodic lines are surely what Bach would have wanted, and he was heard at his finest in the duet, lines such as ‘Ja, ich komme und erquicke’ sending the requisite shiver down the spine.

The more joyful Erschallet, ihr Lieder opened the concert, and was engagingly performed after some moments of suspect intonation had been overcome: as always with this kind of concert at the Wigmore, there really isn’t enough room for everyone on the platform, so a little initial awkwardness was to be expected. The benefits are the wonderful intimacy with the performers, shown most vividly in the chorale ‘Von Gott kommt mir ein Freudenschein’ and in the dazzling trumpet parts, featuring some daring playing from all concerned. In place of the exuberance of this work, the following Himmelskönig sei wilkommen expresses submission to the will of God via the far more intimate means of interplay between violin and recorder, the arias somewhat eclipsed by the striking Chorale ‘Jesu, deine Passion / Ist mir lauter Freude.’

Emma Kirkby and Michael Chance are such well known Bach singers that one imagines one will know what to expect from them every time, but it is part of this whole group’s style to make this music sound fresh and new: no one expresses joy better than Kirkby, and there are few if any other counter-tenors who can shape Bach’s lines with the kind of intimacy which Chance gives them. An evening of distinguished singing which can be enjoyed again and again on the group’s recordings.


Melanie Eskenazi


Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page

Seen and Heard
, one of the longest established live music review web sites on the Internet, publishes original reviews of recitals, concerts and opera performances from the UK and internationally. We update often, and sometimes daily, to bring you fast reviews, each of which offers a breadth of knowledge and attention to performance detail that is sometimes difficult for readers to find elsewhere.

Seen and Heard publishes interviews with musicians, musicologists and directors which feature both established artists and lesser known performers. We also feature articles on the classical music industry and we use other arts media to connect between music and culture in its widest terms.

Seen and Heard aims to present the best in new criticism from writers with a radical viewpoint and welcomes contributions from all nations. If you would like to find out more email Regional Editor Bill Kenny.


Search Site  with FreeFind


Any Review or Article

Contributors: Marc Bridle, Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling,  Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, John Leeman, Sue Loder,Jean Martin, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, Raymond Walker, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)

Site design: Bill Kenny 2004