• Harriet Cunningham - Sydney Morning Herald


As composer, conductor and new artistic director of The Song Company Antony Pitts explains, there is something reassuringly solid about Bach's music.

His scores are complex and technically challenging, but they unfurl with a sense of unbending certainty. Have faith and it will all work out in the end. Perhaps this is why the beginning of this, the ensemble's first concert in 2016, has proved so delicious.

One voice, gradually joined by other voices from unseen figures around the hall, singing an unadorned melody. From silence, to one, to many, it felt like the perfect opening to a new chapter.

The premise of this ambitious concert was to explore Bach's music and its legacy (as well as, in Hans Leo Hassler's Herzlich tut mich verlangen, a precursor).

Hearing Brahms, Mendelssohn and Bach side by side was a fascinating, if sometimes disarming, experience.

One of the highlights was Brahms' choral prelude, Warum ist das Licht gegeben, an intensely emotional, harmonically volatile series of verses, in which the eight voices blended with mahogany warmth.

Alongside this was a movement from Brahms' Cello Sonata in E Minor, played on baroque cello and chamber organ (by guests Daniel Yeadon​ and Neal Peres Da Costa).

The unfamiliar timbres – it is usually heard on modern piano and cello – somehow played down the romantic sweep of the work and, instead, brought out the handsome bones of work, not least the triple fugue borrowed from The Art of Fugue.

However, the main event was Bach, and Pitts drew a fastidious, cogent and very beautiful performance of three motets from these fine performers.

This is virtuoso ensemble singing: eight individual voices, all moving independently, often in different directions, at speed and at the extremes of the singers' registers and dynamic ranges. It's hard to imagine a better performance.

And just in case this all sounds too earnest, too owlish, the inclusion of Contrapunctus XI from The Art of Fugue injected a mischievous sense of swing into Bach's complex patterning.

The new chapter reads well.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/the-song-company-review-antony-pitts-delivers-perfect-new-chapter-20160222-gn05t9.html#ixzz4DoOP1u00 Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook