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April 16   -   Guardian

Easter Oratorio; The Musical Offering; Holy Week festival – review

Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden; Kings Place; St John’s Smith Square, London The Gabrieli Consort and Players excel in Bach’s often overlooked Easter Oratorio. And Rheinberger rocks…

Early in 1725 Bach wrote a cantata about nymphs and shepherds for the birthday of a local duke for performance in his court or royal hunting lodge. Some five weeks later, those pastoral archetypes – Doris, Sylvia and their swains – had become the disciples, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “mother of James”, John and Peter, mourners at Christ’s tomb. Never averse to recycling when a deadline loomed, Bach fitted a new text to the music, rejigging it hastily as a new composition for the high point of the liturgical year.

That work, later revised, became the Easter Oratorio. Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players chose it, together with other Bach from the same period, for their debut concert at Saffron Hall. It was a rewarding programme. Compared to the St John and St Matthew Passions, the B minor Mass or the Christmas Oratorio, the Easter Oratorio is little known, a forgotten sibling. Yet this exuberant piece dances its exultation from the opening chorus – “Come, hurry and run” – to the exuberant finale.

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