AFTER I had overcome my surprise at hearing Bach’s St Matthew Passion ringing out in English, it quickly became clear this would be a very enjoyable performance.

That was during the course of this masterpiece’s always tense, foreboding, rapturous introduction, where two choirs and two orchestras intertwine over an array of major and minor keys and an inexorable ground bass.

Bach, a Lutheran, set the German Bible translation of Martin Luther for this work, and I rather missed its clipped phrases and punctuating consonants, but it was a decent rendering in English and was helped greatly by a superb performance from the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus.

Frankly, it was easy to forget they are an amateur choir, their dynamic range, precision and enunciation were all first class, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly as well.

During the chorale sections they were tender, or rousing, while the priests and commoners cursing the ‘King of the Jews’ were manifested with the requisite hiss and spite.

Well done also to the youngsters from the Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus, whose small but very important part (although all is important in Bach) was sung with great clarity.

Unsurprisingly, Poole Lighthouse played host to some top drawer soloists on the night.

Operatic tenor Mark Milhofer was a superb Evangelist, at his best near the top end of his range (top end in this at least) and visibly trembling with energy, as Stephen Gadd’s Christ sat unmoving beside him.

Gadd’s vocal contributions had a prophetic edge, and Christ’s final words were delivered with a suitably bitter vigour, the Hebrew even more stark against the English than the German.

Handling the arias were soprano Erica Eloff, mezzo-soprano Marie Elliott and baritone Ben Nelson, all very professional singers well chosen for this piece. In particular, I thought Nelson did justice to ‘Mache dich, mein Herze, rein’ (if only in German), and if you know this piece you will know how vital that is.

The strings and woodwind, and organ, of the orchestra under Gavin Carr were sublime, and in particular I tip my hat to the violin soloists and the cor anglais.

More from this set up please. Perhaps the Magnificat next?