Handel: Messiah Orchetstra & Choir of the Age of Enlightenment, Christian Curnyn recorded in St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, released 27 December 2020
This recording of Messiah was made over a couple of days in the lead up to Christmas under London’s just-applied Tier 4 Covid-19 regulations. It was rehearsed and recorded in the sumptuous mid-to-late 19th century Anglo-Catholic church of St Paul’s, Knightsbridge. One of the first of the Oxford Movement churches, it’s 1843 galleried preaching-box design gained some Victorian bling with the addition of Bodley’s 1892 chancel with its rood screen and reredos which, along with the 1870/1920 wall painting and panels, form the visual background to the performance.
Handel: Messiah Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr Live-stream from The Barbican, 19 December 2020
In what is becoming the ‘new normal’, the annual Academy of Ancient Music’s London performance of Handel’s Messiah was live-streamed (from behind a paywall) from London’s Barbican Hall. The socially-distanced, modest-sized period instrument orchestra (5,4,2,2,1 strings) and 17-strong choir filled the entire width of the stage with no apparent loss of acoustic focus in the recorded sound – the acoustics were excellent. Like any well-designed concert hall, the Barbican Hall retains the same acoustics whether or not there is an audience presence, the empty seats designed to have the same acoustic properties when empty as when sat upon. As far as I can tell, the concert is no longer available to watch, although this website might lead you to a possible viewing. The programme notes can be accessed here.
Handel in Ireland Vol.1
Bridget Cunningham (harpsichord)
Signum Classics SIGCD478. 72’52
This is a rather delayed review of a CD released in 2017. It is part of an ambitious series of Handel recordings from Bridget Cunningham and her London Early Opera, including Handel in Italy and Handel at Vauxhall, but this one is for solo harpsichord. This recording explores “some of the myths and mysteries surrounding Handel’s visit from London to Dublin in 1741 and reflects on the influences that Handel experienced from being in Dublin and also the inspiration he gave to others through his music and skills of improvisation at the keyboard”. Continue reading →
Les Arts Florissants, William Christie
Barbican, 19 December 2016
Over the years, William Christie has done much to introduce French baroque music to British ears, and has opened our ears to Purcell. But I had not heard his take on Messiah live before. It was bound to be rather different from the usual variety of British interpretations, and it was. We are increasingly used to lightly scored performances with moderately sized choirs, in contrast to the cast of thousands of yesteryear, but this very Gallic interpretation added a layer of delicacy and dance-like joie de vivre to Handel’s music, all done in the best possible Bon Goût. Les Arts Florissants fielded a choir of 24 (quite large, by some standards today, and in Handel’s time) and an orchestra with 6, 6, 4, 4, 2 strings, together with five soloists. Both instrumentalists and the chorus were encouraged to keep the volume down, usually by a finger on the Christie lips. This seems to be in line with Handel’s intentions, as indicated by his scoring and, for example, his very limited use of the trumpets. When things did let rip, there was still a sense of restraint amongst the power. Continue reading →
Lausanne Bach Festival – Messiah Irish Baroque Orchestra, Chœur Resurgam Opéra de Lausanne, 15 November 2015
When I last visited the Lausanne Bach Festival many years ago, it consisted of nine concerts over a long weekend. In its current incarnation (the eighteenth), it is spread over the period from 25 October to 28 November, with six concerts, three informal ‘Bach Days’, a short conference, and, on this occasion, the 5th International Organ Competition. Although having the events spread out in this way probably attracts more local residents, it makes it a less practical attraction for people from outside Switzerland. I was principally there to review the Organ Competition (reviewed here), but was also able to get to two of the festival concerts, starting with a performance of Messiah Continue reading →
All the Angels: Handel and the first Messiah
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. 26 June 2015
The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, part of the Shakespeare Globe on London’s South Bank, has come up with an enterprising series of candlelit musical events and, increasingly, theatrical events using music as an integral part of the production. The latest of the latter genre is ‘All the Angels: Handel and the first Messiah, a play by Nick Drake that explores Handel’s visit to Dublin where the first performance of Messiah took place on 13 April 1742.
Based reasonably accurately on the facts of Handel’s life and the Dublin story, the play was set in period, albeit there were several present day contributions to the script, for example “Fair City: Not!” and a mention of zero-hours contracts. The Continue reading →