Bach Christmas Oratorio, Queen's Hall, Review

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Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Jonathan Cohen (conductor)
Soraya Mafi (soprano) Paula Murphy (mezzo-soprano) Samuel Boden (tenor) Neal Davies (bass baritone) Members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Entering into the festive mood, the concert last night was J S Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Written in 1734, it is in six parts which Bach intended to be performed over specific days heralding the journey from the birth of Jesus to the adoration of the Magi. The SCO chose to perform Parts 1, 2 and 3 – the birth of Jesus; the ‘annunciation to the shepherds’ and ‘the adoration of the shepherds.’

Jonathan Cohen was the guest conductor and harpsichord player and from the choral introduction to the finale, under his direction the singers and orchestra created an outstanding performance. The chorus, under the guidance of Gregory Batsleer, sounded superb with a thrilling opening choral passage and wonderful variations of tone throughout this passionate work.

The Queen’s Hall is an intimate concert environment and the soloists blended with the orchestra and audience. Paula Murphy, the mezzo-soprano who sang alto in this Oratorio, imbued a great deal of passion in the arias, and had superb breath control. Samuel Boden, with his clear tenor voice, was the Narrator; Neal Davis, the bass-baritone, had wonderful rich tones and Soraya Mafi gave a pure soprano rendition.

The orchestra created a flawless performance, with perfect brass tones, beautiful haunting woodwind, Alison Mitchell - principal flautist - accompanying Sam Boden in the ‘Joyful Shepherds’ aria and Stephanie Gonley - guest leader - accompanying Paula Murphy in the ‘Keep thou, my heart now,’ aria in Part 3.

Friday 1 December. Glasgow City Halls, 7.30pm. Tickets: £16/£30