Bach and Buxtehude: Brighton Early Music Festival 23/24
BREMF has become one of the most exciting arts organisations in the city with events running across the year and a growing audience. And a regular at so many performances is Latest’s reviewer of all things classical and beyond Andrew Connal. But on this occasion Mr C was unwell and for fear of coughing co-opted my less academic services.
So as a consequence this review will be perhaps far more emotional than informed. That said I am no novice to the joys of early music and have long been a lover and even in my past, and in an amateur sense, an occasional performer.
As such I am also concerned about one striking element of these concerts, and that is the age of the audiences. Whilst amongst us there were one or two people under the age of fifty I would estimate that the average age was well into the late 60s, maybe beyond. In fact the youngest people in the room were on the platform performing. It’s a sad truth about modern life and the bleak attitude of a government obsessed with the sciences and dismissal of the arts.
Soap box set aside let me move on to what was, without doubt, a truly extraordinary evening of beautiful music and musicianship. To start Johann Sebastian Bach Cantata No. 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden. Conductor John Hancorn drove forward with lightest of touch The BREMF Players led by the brilliant playing of Alison Bury and The Baroque Collective Singers joined by five talented soloists, two stunning sopranos Sofia Kirwan-Baez and Lucinda Cox, the luscious tones of mezzo-soprano Angharad Rowlands, the clarity of tenor Kieran White and the pure and resonant quality of bass-baritone Edward Jowle whose voice sent shivers of delight. I did warn that my words would be rather more emotional than academic.
To follow a Bach fugue, No. 22 in A minor BWV 867, so perfectly delivered and then Heinrich Ignaz Franz Bibers’ Mensa Sonora, Pars III, in A minor, again displaying such beautiful and precise playing.
To end part one Dieterich Buxtehude’s Magnificat which, after what seemed like a slightly shaky start, went on to display the full force of the Baroque Collective Singers power and skill.
After the interval more Buxtehude and Membra Jesu Nostri, a piece that I had never heard but one that I am now compelled to re-visit. Wonderful moments for the full ensemble but within that some stirringly beautiful duets and trios. And also a second chance to hear the talents of the very young Arculo Consort of Viols, Sarah Small, Rowan Bidmead, Jacob Garside, Cai Waverley-Hudson, Camilla Morse-Glover who all deserve a mention by name for the joy of their playing and collectively brought the average age of the room down by many years. How wonderful it is to see and hear a group like this in our world starved of cultural investment by the Philistine powers that be.
There we have it, my emotional and political rant about a beautiful concert and the state of the arts. BREMF is an extraordinary asset to the city and beyond and whilst attracting some funding needs the support of the community, on this occasion clearly there in a sell-out concert, but sadly lacking in younger people without whom we may not have a future audience. Bring your kids! Without them this could be something that we lose!