Solomon’s Knot, Coronation Hall, Ulverston

FOR over 30 years, Lake District Summer Music has brought a feast of chamber music to the Lake District in late July and August. The opening concert in this, the 33rd season, opened with a remarkable performance of Bach’s great choral masterpiece, his Mass in B minor. The performers were Solomon’s Knot, a collective of singers and instrumentalists who specialise in music from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Founded in 2008, the group aims for historical authenticity in performance but also seeks to remove barriers between performer and spectator by applying the principles of chamber music to large-scale works, hence a group of only ten singers and twenty instrumentalists playing modern copies of instruments used in Bach’s time. The performance was modelled on the theories of the American musicologist Joshua Rifkin who, in 1981, first put forward the thesis that much of the great composer’s choral music would have been sung with only one singer to a part. This theory, controversial at the time, has now been generally accepted and this performance added yet more convincing proof that such a realisation can work.

So, apart from the adoption of the one-to-a-part theory, what was so special about this performance?

In the first place the singers sang from memory and there was no conductor. In effect, this was chamber music in which the success or otherwise of the performance relied on the performers’ ability to communicate with an air of spontaneity and freedom - a high-risk strategy for a work so complicated as the B Minor Mass; starts, for example, relied on unanimity of breath intake or the slight movement of a bow. The small forces and technical skills of both singers and players enabled tempi throughout to be brisk; the contrapuntal lines were delivered with a clarity and lightness seldom achieved in a large-scale performance; phrases were beautifully shaped by singers and instrumentalists in both choruses and solo arias. In short, the performance was electrifying from beginning to end and understandably drew huge applause from the audience.


Lake District Summer Music runs until Friday, August 11.

Among the many exciting performances still to come in the prestigious fortnight-long festival are the Aurelian Piano Trio, of New Zealand, performing works by Beethoven, Shostakovich and Ravel at Kirkby Lonsdale Parish Church on Thursday, August 3 at noon; the Consone Quartet at Windermere's Carver Church on Friday, August 4 (11am); Australian violinist Emily Sun (with pianist Jennifer Hughes) at Ambleside Parish Centre on Monday, August 7 (11am), and Romanian pianist, Alexandra Vaduva, at Ambleside Parish Church on Friday, August 11 (11am).

At noon on Saturday, August 5, Kendal Town Hall hosts an innovative family event mixing puppetry and music by the Palisander Recorder Quartet.

LDSM marks the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi's birth with a selection of his madrigals - together with part songs by Holst and Finzi - performed by local singers the Herdwyk Consort on Wednesday, August 9, at St Thomas's Church (9.45pm).

The highly acclaimed Berkeley Ensemble brings the 2017 festival to a terrific conclusion at Ambleside Parish Church on Friday, August 11 (7.30pm).

Box office 01539-742621; online at, or from the festival office at Kendal's Stricklandgate House, 92 Stricklandgate.