Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: Bach’s Easter Oratorio

Madeleine Easton

After postponing their performances for two lockdown years, Artistic Director of Bach Akademie Australia, Madeleine Easton, was finally able to bring the Easter Oratorio concert series to Australian audiences, and what a concert it was!

A superb choir of eight (two bass, two sopranos, two tenors, an alto and a counter tenor) carried the vocals either in groups or as soloists, while the orchestra of 21 delivered sublime sounds under the baton, or rather bow, of Easton, who herself played the violin with the orchestra.

The program consisted of the glorious Cantatas BWV 42 and 6 (Emmaus), written while Bach was Kantor for the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, and the divine Easter Oratorio BMV 249.

Easton’s controlled passion conveyed itself to the orchestra, which played with strict precision and joyful restraint that filled the surprisingly huge white interior of the St Francis of Assisi Church in Paddington with breathtaking music.

Madeleine Easton

Madeleine Easton

Bach was a devout Christian as well as a musical genius, and he knew how to use the instruments of the orchestra to express the tragedy of bereavement and the consolations of Resurrection.

For example, the program notes say about the Emmaus Cantata, “Strings and a trio of plangent oboes support the voices whose occasional long held notes suggest the steadfastness of the Christian soul.

Further, in Cantata BWV 42, “the Evangelist’s role is shared between tenor and bass soloists, with reflective arias for alto and bass and a choral duet for soprano and tenor.”

This program raises the question of whether you can respond to Bach’s divine musical compositions without being a Christian.

My conclusion? Bach’s music is transcendental, able to touch the hearts of all who listen to it and raise them to spiritual heights irrespective of personal religious beliefs.

Bach can even offer an atheist a spiritual experience!

Bach Akademie Australia

Bach Akademie Australia

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