Bach's Christmas Oratorio
Sunday 30 November 2008, Dunblane Cathedral
The Christmas season began in great style when the Rosenethe Singers under the direction of Matthew Beetschen performed Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on Advent Sunday in a packed Dunblane Cathedral where the choir was joined by an excellent team of soloists. The Scottish Bach Players, led by Angus Ramsay set the mood for Bach’s joyous working of the Christmas story with those first bars of trumpet and percussion.
The choir’s opening chorus was sung with a lovely bright light tone, in excellent German, and with neat rhythms and precise tuning. This brightness was well contrasted in the warm singing of the chorales and throughout the performance the choir sang with conviction and confidence, apart from a slight hesitation at the beginning of the Glory to God chorus in part 2 which didn’t quite find its pace and impetus. The balance, on the whole, was very good, althoug h the altos could perhaps be a little more incisive and crisp without losing tone, but praise to the small band of tenors who sang with clear articulation in those running passages.
The soprano, Elena Xanthoudakis sang with great flexibility, her pure tone filling the cathedral, and mezzo-soprano Colette Ruddy brought gentle warmth to her solos. Andrew McTaggart is a promising bass and Andrew Dickinson, as Evangelist sang with a strong sense of drama, excellent diction and pace.
The performance was enhanced by stylish playing and strong support from the Scottish Bach Players with outstanding solo trumpet, oboe and continuo playing. Matthew Beetschen brought all the musical elements together skilfully and conducted with great insight into this glorious music which also contains hints of the future tragedy.
This performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was a fine achievement and served to confirm that the Rosenethe Singers enjoy their music-making and as always they conveyed this sense of enjoyment to their audience.