EX CATHEDRA | "a ravishing performance of this monumental work" - St Matthew Passion review

“Easter performances by Ex Cathedra, under the baton of their musical director, Jeffrey Skidmore have become a fixture of Birmingham’s musical calendar.  There can be a danger, when a work is familiar and oft performed by a body of musicians, that a degree of staleness might develop.  Not here.  On the basis of Friday’s performance, it would seem that familiarity breeds depth and richness of understanding.

“This is a many layered work where a narrative of intense drama is punctuated by moments of intense spiritual reflection.  The main driving force behind the drama is the Evangelist, here superbly sung by tenor Bradley Smith who drew on a broad tonal palette to colour his interpretation, ranging from effortlessly floated high pianissimos through to full voiced declamatory exclamations.  This was well paced and convincing musical story telling raised to a high level.  Themba Mvula gave us a vocally calm and grounded Jesus characterised by presence and depth of emotion.

“The chorus and other soloists serve both dramatic and reflective functions. In this respect Ex Cathedra totally captured the restrained but passionately meditative mood required by Bach’s Chorale settings and the violent, operatic vocal style called for in the ‘lynch mob’ choruses.  Choir and soloists dovetailed beautifully in the movements where individual voices dialogue with chorus.  There was a similarly wonderful sense of duet between solo singers and instrumentalists during the obligato arias, with a real feeling of shared expression…

“a ravishing performance of this monumental work.”

Read the full review at www.reviewsgate.com