Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine
MacMillan: Cantos Sagrados
Dvorak: Mass in D
Saturday 25 March 2017 7.30pm Bath Abbey
Bath Bach Choir
Conductor: Nigel Perrin
Tickets £10, £15, £20, £25, £28
Bath Box Office 01225 463 362
Songs through a stained glass window
Bath Bach Choir’s spring concert brings together four sacred works that one would expect to hear performed in an abbey or cathedral, yet which could not be more different from one another – spanning, as they do, over 350 years of musical evolution.
Allegri’s Miserere was composed in the 1630s for the choir of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and would have been sung in complete darkness as the Pope and cardinals knelt before the altar. Today this setting of Psalm 51 is sung every Maundy Thursday in Britain’s cathedrals, its haunting tones instantly recognisable even to those who know little sacred choral music. The work has become famous for the five spine-tingling moments when the solo soprano hits a high C.
Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine is one of his best loved works, for which he won first prize at the Ecole Niedermeyer in 1865 when he was a 20-year-old student. The rich harmonies of the choir and the beauty of the flowing accompaniment, with Racine’s text calling upon the Lord to inspire his people with the holy spirit, have made this brief gem of a piece a favourite in the choral repertoire.
Dvorak’s Mass in D (1887) is a beautiful, romantic gem of a piece in which Slavic edginess meets mellifluous, Brahmsian melodies. Dvorak wrote it for his friend and patron Josef Hlavka and for the consecration of a new chapel in western Bohemia, managing to combine old church modes with modern approaches to harmony. Brahms wrote of Dvorak: “The fellow has more ideas than any of us.” Some of these evolved into the wonderful, folkloric choruses you may well be hearing for the first time.
James MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados (1990) – sacred songs – are edge-of-the-seat settings of three modern secular poems about political repression in South America, coupled with traditional sacred Latin texts. One of Britain’s most renowned composers, MacMillan is a favourite of Bath Bach Choir, which has performed several of his works including the south-west premiere of his St John Passion. This piece is challenging and intense, both to sing and to listen to, but MacMillan’s musical language is immediate, personal and open.