Review: Baroque Classics, St Peter’s Singers & Manchester Baroque, Leeds Minster, Saturday, June 29, 2024

SUMPTUOUS vocal and instrumental harmonies, from the 17th and early 18th centuries, filled the splendid Grade l listed Victorian gothic Minster and Parish Church of St Peter last Saturday evening.

St Peter’s Singers with Manchester Baroque playing on instruments of the period were placed beneath the tower. This offered optimum sound balance to the audience seated in the nave or the west end gallery. I listened intently from each location during the course of the evening.

Conductor Alex Woodrow who informatively introduced each piece, opened this generous programme with the Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord) attributed to Dietrich Buxtehude. The performance was notable for its deftness of switching between solo and choral passages, albeit with some initial insecurity of intonation.

Next up, Misere mei (Have mercy on me) by Francesco Scarlatti whose career was largely overshadowed by his elder brother Alessandro and nephew Domenico. Much to admire in this performance within the scoring for baroque ensemble, led by Pauline Nobes and varied vocal writing for the group of soloists within the body of 35 singers. JS Bach’s Jesu, meine freude (Jesus, my joy) well known motet ended the first half. Luminous vocal textures were underpinned by the stylish playing from Manchester Baroque’s violins, violas, cello, harpsichord, and violone - an early form of double bass.

The Concerto Grosso Op 6 Nr 4 by Arcangelo Corelli allowed us to savour the crisp articulation, rhythmic vitality and beautifully shaped phrasing of Manchester Baroque.

The 40 minute-long Dixit Dominus composed in April 1707 by Handel when he was just twenty-two, brought the evening to a resounding climax. St Peter’s Singers admirably rose to the virtuosic demands of this dramatic setting. The blending of voices was superb and the choral attack elicited by Alex Woodrow had astonishing power and precision. This was truly a tour de force, in partnership with the responsive players of Manchester Baroque.