Handel’s The Passion of Christ – Sunday March 18th 2018

Portsmouth Festival Choir chose Emsworth Baptist Church for its performance, on Sunday evening, of Handel’s The Passion of Christ.

The choir coped well with an acoustic much less flattering than that of its usual venue, Portsmouth’s Anglican cathedral. Much of this work is ascribed to the seven soloists, with much less participation from the chorus than you would expect to hear in, for example, a Bach Passion.

Nevertheless, the chorus’s role is an important one and the choir acquitted themselves well. They were responsive to conductor Thomas Neal’s clear direction, and it was evident they had been well rehearsed. The chorale-like movements were well blended and there were some lovely contrasts of mood in the final, more extended chorus. Passages that required swift interaction between soloists and chorus, and changes from recitative to aria, were well judged by Neal – aided by alert and stylish continuo playing from the Chichester-based Consort of Twelve.

Notable among the solo singers were soprano Rosalind Dobson and the two resonant basses, Hugo Herman-Wilson and Timothy Edlin. The Evangelist was Neil Jenkins, who also edited and translated the new performing edition of this work. The performance was much enjoyed by the near capacity audience.

Review by Ian Schofield