The Sheffield Telegraph – 6th December, 2012

Simon Lindley has certainly re-energised and rejuvenated Sheffield Bach Choir’s performance of Handel’s oratorio, putting it back in the glory days of Roger Bullivant.  He doesn’t build the final Amen with the same imperious finality but it was no less magnificently wrought to the point that nothing could possibly follow, and elicited a standing ovation from a packed cathedral for the second year running.

Conducting without a score, he cajoled nuance and dynamic shading from the excellent National Festival Orchestra and drew terrific choral singing from his choir.  In many ways, it couldn’t have been better with rhythmic utterance, projection, word clarity generally and overall balance of high order.  His generally even tempi, no extremes of speed, always sounded right, the alto/tenor duet ‘O Death Where Is Thy Sting?’ in particular gaining enormously from not being taken at a breakneck speed.

Ben Thapa’s singing of the tenor’s music was astonishing at times.  He lived it, a big operatic voice judiciously used to vivid effect in opening recitative and aria – super crescendo on one of Comfort (ye)! – and in its dramatic element in recit/arioso sequence in part two, accusingly turning towards the choir at Thy Rebuke.

No such cherish-able moments from Joanna Gamble, but steady forthright, meaningful mezzo-soprano singing replete with a beautiful, sparingly sung account of He was despised, while no-one ‘sounds a trumpet’ more resonantly than Mark Rowlinson – no doubt grateful for a non – ‘raging’ tempo at Why do the Nations!  And even if young soprano Sarah Potter had not offered an I Know that my Redeemer of lovely simplicity her pure-toned voice-of-an-angel singing of Rejoice Greatly would have left an indelible mark on the performance.

Bernard Lee

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