There are moments where Oxford delivers a double whammy so sublime, one can scarcely imagine a happier combination of circumstances.
So it was at New College yesterday. Taking our seats in late afternoon in New College's magnificent chapel, the organist Robert Quinney's opening octaves of Bach's famous 'Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV565' thrilled the congregation.
Quinney's programme notes suggest that this masterpiece may have been composed when Bach was 'barely more than a teenager'. Its brilliant manual work and pedal points owe a debt to the South German organ tradition – but its confidence and ambitious scale prefigure Bach's later work.
Tom Hammond-Davies' Oxford Bach Soloists then performed 'Cantatas BMV 90 and 116' which tell of the second coming of Christ and of the temptations at the end of the world.
Hammond-Davies' superb conducting at a sparkling pace drew wonderful performances from the soloists, particularly alto Alex Chance and tenor Daniel Norman. Soprano Alexandra Lloyd and bass Henry Hawkesworth's aria of 'Duetto' was outstanding and Lloyd's aria with bass Tom Herring was thrillingly sung.
The closing chorale of Bach's 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme' (Sleepers Awake) was sung as the chapel darkened at dusk, the candles flickering and the magnificent reredos lit to dramatic effect.
It was a perfect afternoon of music, architecture and soaring spiritual uplift – even if I did have to wrap my coat around my legs to still feel my feet.