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Bach St Matthew Passion

On Sunday 5th April Alex Stobbs conducted the Bach St Matthew Passion at the Cadogan Hall. He was musically highly-charged and confidently in control. Players and singers immediately recognised his impeccable musicianship and knew they were in good hands Musicians are inspired because he loves it so much; his conducting is entirely about the music and not about himself.

On the Wednesday before, forty-four members of the Rodolfus Choir had gathered to rehearse with him at Westminster School. He started the week a little nervously, but very soon got into his stride, and it was clear that he knew exactly what's what. Two orchestras and six soloists joined the choir at the Cadogan Hall on Saturday, and started to put together this complex three-hour work. But it was from the Sunday morning that we really started to experience Alex's firm and clear intentions for the piece through his gentle, economical but powerful conducting, and the resulting performance on Sunday evening was a triumph. The Southbank Sinfonia, the Ripieno Choir of trebles and altos from Eton College Chapel Choir, the Rodolfus Choir and Sarah Fox, Michael Chance, Christopher Gillett, Timothy Robinson, Michael George and Thomas Guthrie were in complete musical unanimity. The audience in the packed hall responded with a five-minute standing ovation.

Many people gave an enormous amount of time and effort: it was the largest project ever undertaken by the Rodolfus Choir in its 25-year history. Grateful thanks are due to those who were so generous, those who organised and encouraged the giving, to those who fixed and played in the orchestra, to the wonderful audience (especially WECS who are such a support), to the soloists who were so generous, to the organisers of the choir, those who looked after the Ripieno Choir, the front of house, Friends and CDs, to Westminster School and to those who looked after Alex in so many ways. I know that Alex himself is deeply grateful, but so are all those of us who were moved by his intensely personal performance.

We in this country should be more aware and proud of a culture which finds, through its extraordinary choir school system, a highly talented musician such as Alex (along with many others) at a very early age, gives him thorough and often daily immersion in some of the greatest music the world has produced (in his case at King's Cambridge, but there are 34 similar foundations) and then enables him, fired with enthusiasm, to reproduce one of the greatest wonders of the world after less than a week's work with performers of his own average age. And that's before we consider his illness.

Alex's admission to the Brompton Hospital was postponed until after the performance, and he is there now, weak but comfortable and recuperating.

Ralph Allwood

DATE POSTED: 15 April 2009

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