MUSIC REVIEW: Christmas Oratorio: BREMF

November 14, 2017



St Martin’s Church

On November 12

Hannah Ely soprano

Rebecca Leggett mezzo soprano

Hugo Hymas tenor (Evangelist)

Simon Wallfisch baritone


The BREMF Players

Alison Bury leader

The BREMF Singers

John Hancorn director

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a huge piece to undertake. Bach designed the oratorio’s six parts as self-contained cantatas to be sung separately on the days leading up to and after Christmas but when presented all together they show their coherent whole.  BREMF wisely  left one part of it out, [Part IV omitted in this performance] not that that diminished the evening in the slightest and made what could have been a long haul into a very pleasant and well balanced evening.

The splendid atmosphere of St Martins added to the gravitas and festive feeling of this production, she really is a fine old Leviathan of a building and the acoustic is superb, the massed voices of the singers rolling sharply around the huge roof and keeping the clarity of the music intact.

There were some choral parts which the audience could join in with, there having been an earlier free event for people keen to sing, it was very English in a subdued way. The Christmas Oratorio is a simply lovey piece of Bach, complex, easy to understand, impressive, simple, elegant and astonishing in equal measure it reminds us of quite what an astonishing talent Bach what and how lucky we are live in a city which takes its music so seriously and with such passion.

The BREMF Singers are unparalleled in their precision, diction and singing in the original German provided an authentic feeling to the evening. I never fail to be impressed by the quality of the BREMF singers; they provided a superb level of choral singing which adds impressively to any event they are part of.

The four principal singers held us in their grasp form the moment they started to sing, clear voices rolling across the audience and keeping the important narrative pace of the plot electric and engaging. All four shone.

See the full programme and texts here
This evening’s music was superb, it’s almost as if the BREMF was saving the best till last but this year’s programme has excelled in the quality of its music and tonight was no exception. John Hancorn conducted with a florid grace which kept the music tight and graceful while allowing the complex interactions of Bach’s melodies to entwine and entice us.  The orchestra were on top form with premier performances from each and every one of the players, the trumpeters excelled.

This was the final event of this years Brighton Early Music Festival and what a superb year its been, it’s also the last festival for BREMF Co-Artistic Director Clare Norburn & she stood one last time to thank us for supporting the festival and it was an opportunity for the audience and players to thank her for her endless, boundless enthusiasm and patience which has grown the BREMF into a force to be reckoned with in the Classical Music world.  The audience showed their approval and I would add my own thanks in to Clare for her superb choices year after year in programming the festival, her unwavering support for quality accessible music and the innovations of BREMF which bring Classical music to young people in local schools each year. (Read more here)  We wish you well in your future endeavours.

There will be two special Festival concerts in December which you can learn more and book tickets for here.