Saturday, April 23, 2011
Aldeburgh blunts Bach's Passion
Tweeting during concerts is bad enough, but what went on during yesterday's St John Passion at Snape Maltings was even worse. I knew Aldeburgh had finally caught the popularising bug when an amplified Blake Morrison appeared on the platform to preface the opening Herr, unser Herrscher with a reading from John's gospel. But there was worse to come. At the end of the first part of the Passion, even as the echoes of Bach's immensely moving chorale Petrus, der nicht denkt zurück lingered in the mighty roof space of the Maltings, Blake Morrison returned to join the musicians. He then proceeded to deliver a fifteen minute monologue expanding on the delights of his recent coach trip to Petra, after which we were allowed to escape from the auditorium to the Snape bar.
Thankfully, during the second half there were no further appearances by Mr Morrison. However, Bach's sublime score and the exemplary musicianship of the Britten–Pears Baroque Orchestra and vocal soloists directed by Mark Padmore struggled against a constant melodramatic reshuffling of the musical forces that made the Maltings platform at times resemble a railway station in the rush hour. As I walked back to my car after the concert I swear I heard the sound of something turning in a grave in nearby Aldeburgh Church.
* Bach's St John Passion accompanied by Blake Morrison can be heard again at Snape Maltings on Easter Sunday. Concert goers on Sunday will not be able to experience the unalloyed tedium of the Very Reverend Dr John Drury's pre-concert talk as it is not being repeated then. Britten's own Snape recording of the St John Passion is also naughty, but it is nice as well.
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