How much can one take ?
Some months ago one of the choirs I sang with briefly was putting on the Bach B Minor for their fiftieth anniversary. They're a very good choir so I was excited to go and hear them - how often do you hear a live B-minor? - so I happily forked out the price for two seats.
The a storm hit and the trams were disrupted and our journey to the theatre (!) where they were singing was made impossible.
Well they decided to do "excerpts" - essentially almost all the choruses - from the B-minor in one of the city-centre
freezers churches on a "give generously" basis in aid of the local fund to support Ukraine. We gladly went along.
The pianist put out a request for a page-turner but found someone before he got my message offering to help. I was very glad because the pianist was centre-stage with the page turner facing the audience.
Well, the choir sang very well. The conductor is very animated and pretty well dances as he conducts. The tempos for the more lively movements were very fast. Personally I prefer clarity to velocity, and churches are resonant, so it didn't scratch me where I itch but it certainly had fireworks.
Without the arias and duets the B-minor does become a bit of a fugue-fest, but they never got lost, the entries were nice and deliberate and the ripieno chorale melodies - the slow chorale melodies that are sung through (or above, or below) the running passages - came across well.
For me the highlight was the Sanctus. It's one of my favourite movements anyway, but this Sanctus was splendid - perhaps the best I've heard sung. It was like a mountain in a blizzard, or a cathedral in a hailstorm. The swirling triplet passages churned relentlessly, while the ostinato octave scale passages anchored you down in the ebb and flow. Magical.