EX CATHEDRA | "a memorable performance which had everything one could wish for from such an iconic work" - St Matthew Passion review

“Birmingham’s Good Friday St Matthew Passion has become an iconic fixture of Passiontide, and what a joy it was to be gathered, once again, in Symphony Hall to hear it for the first time since 2019. Jeffrey Skidmore has always sought to retain the integrity of the work, whilst developing and revitalising the programme, and in true Ex Cathedra fashion, bringing it right up-to-date.

“This year was no exception, and whilst the Passion itself remained the central work, the concert included additional organ and choral works, culminating in a rousing hymn in which the audience were invited to participate… all of these additional pieces truly enhanced the afternoon’s performance, never detracting from the mighty Bach work itself.

“The programme opened with an organ work, Chorale Prelude on ‘Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig’ by Alec Roth, a composer whom Jeffrey Skidmore has championed over the years. Based on an original plainchant-type melody, the work grew in stature, setting the tone for the concert as a whole. It was executed with great poise and majesty by Rupert Jeffcoat on the Klais organ in Symphony Hall. At its conclusion, the organ seamlessly gave way to the choral version, translated as ‘Now we greet you, gentle Jesus’. This piece showcased not only Ex Cathedra, but also their Academy of Vocal Music and members of their community choirs. The Academy sang with professionalism and precision, a true reminder that the future of choral music is in very good hands.

“The Roth works were perfectly matched and led without break into the St Matthew Passion. The emotionally-charged work was, as ever delivered with passion and conviction by both Ex Cathedra and their Baroque Orchestra…

“Special mention should be made of Bradley Smith as the Evangelist, who had the necessary conviction and presence to hold the whole work together. Similarly, Themba Mvula as Jesus commanded the role with emotion, his vocal quality resonant throughout all corners of Symphony Hall. Katie Trethewey as Soprano I had an exquisite voice which soared throughout the space…

“The baroque orchestra played with their usual panache, and special mention must be made of Juan Manuel Quintana on the viola da gamba… 

Ex Cathedra under Jeffrey Skidmore once again delivered a memorable performance which had everything one could wish for from such an iconic work… [They] were as ever, outstanding. They remain one of best choirs of our time, and judging by the quality of their young apprentices, we have a bright future to look forward to. “

Read the full review at www.davidbartonmusic.co.uk