Classical review: Ludus Baroque, Edinburgh

When you only perform two concerts a year, you want to make them memorable. To that end, Ludus Baroque’s musical director Richard Neville-Towle draws together some of the finest baroque musicians and vocalists from around the UK for his December and August gatherings.

The Canongate Kirk hosted the festive concert. Picture: Kenny Smith
The Canongate Kirk hosted the festive concert. Picture: Kenny Smith

Ludus Baroque: Christmas Oratorio - Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh

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Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a regular date in the diary for some people; a sign that the festive season has begun. In recent years, however, Neville-Towle has shaken things up a bit, after research indicated that 18th century performances of the Oratorio had a dramatised feel. So, now the choir is no longer static throughout, giving rise to an ever-changing sea of sound that carried over the Canongate Kirk. Groups of four choristers regularly moved around the space, taking on the roles of angels, mortals and shepherds. Meanwhile, the four soloists each brought something special and different to the piece.

Mezzo soprano Daniela Lehner had a measured, almost serene approach; baritone Benjamin Bevan’s delivery was steadfast and strong; plaintive soprano Sophie Bevan was a ball of emotion; while the powerful voice of tenor Joshua Ellicott knocked us over like a bowling ball rolling down the aisle (in the midst of such consummate professionalism by all, it seems wrong to have a favourite – but I’ll confess to a silent “oh good” every time Ellicott stood up to sing).

With more than 40 musicians and singers on stage, each tackling this complex score with aplomb, it’s no wonder Canongate Kirk’s wooden pews took some foot stomping at the end.