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Inspired by Song

St Cuthbert's Church, Carlisle
23 February 2008

With spring surely just around the corner, what better way to spend a Saturday evening than with The Wordsworth Singers in St Cuthbert's Church. This, the third in a series of concerts highlighting the works of J S Bach, continued the choir's tradition of presenting unusual works alongside the fairly familiar in a big programme of music from the 16th century to the present day.

Two of Bach's motets, the great Komm, Jesu, komm in eight parts, and the less often heard O Jesu Christ meins Lebens Licht formed the core of the first half of the concert, conductor Edward Caswell's assured direction drawing good, firm singing from the choir and making these into poignant and memorable performances. Remaining with the Bach theme, organist John Robinson treated the audience to a virtuosic performance of the thrilling Prelude and Fugue in G, before enticing us into another world with Cesar Franck's Choral No 2, the choice of registrations making this magnificent instrument fairly glitter.

Three beautiful and very extraordinary anthems by Henry Purcell preceded the interval, after which we heard three Ave Marias - firstly the exquisite setting by the 16th century Spaniard Victoria, then Bruckner's magnificent setting in which he seems to achieve "vastness and miniaturism at the same time", and lastly that by Hungarian Sandor Szokolay. This piece, written in 1988, with close contemporary textures and luminous sonorities amply demonstrated The Wordsworths' versatility as a choir, and received here in Carlisle tonight its UK premiere.

"Listen to the sound of harmony, this melodious musical instrument of modern skills, which plays sweetly and sings full of praise..." exhorts the 12th century manuscript which Zoltan Kodaly set to music in 1966. Laudes Organi "for organ with choir" proved to be Kodaly's last completed work, and with its imposing organ introduction and interludes this paean to the King of Instruments brought an uplifting concert to a triumphant conclusion. I look forward to the remainder of the series.

David Upton