Saturday, 31 December 2016

Bach, Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio), BWV 248, live from the K├Âlner Philharmonie

Quite simply the best concert I have attended. Well worth the trip from London. The Philharmonie's in-house team recorded the concert and is available for on-demand viewing (for how long I am not sure). The work is simultaneously choral, orchestral, sacred and didactic. Maestro Suzuki, not conducting from the harpsichords (a wise move I think), led a performance that dazzled the German audience. The English choir (four voices per part and all male altos) and orchestra, and the cast of four soloists (also singing the choir parts) were uniformly, exquisitely outstanding. Five stars without hesitation, and a wonderful way to mark the Christmas season. Programme available here with full performer details (in German). Recorded at 18.30 on 18 December 2016. ★★★★★

A Must Watch Video: The Sistine Chapel Choir

This simply superb piece by the US current affairs programme "60 Minutes" makes for compelling viewing. Rather than being simply a "puff piece", it actually delves into the woeful modern history of the choir, and how in a relatively short space of time, Monsignor Palombella has transformed the choir into one worthy of the task of singing at Papal Masses. The maestro's meticulous study of the choir's core repertoire, combined with an open-mindedness to outside influence (he must have taken advice from some English conductors), have ensured the development of the much purer, more professional sound we now hear. While many serious observers of happenings in Rome are, in many ways justifiably, alarmed by certain conduct of the Pope, this is one good news story for which the reigning Pontiff must be congratulated, even if simply for his passive inaction in not intervening in the good work by the current maestro di cappella. Indeed, perhaps that does the Pope an injustice, given that the choir seems to enjoy a close and cordial relationship with his Holiness (even if, as one cheeky chorister remarks with youthful candour, the Pope knows nothing about music!)