Sunday, December 13, 2009
In the neo-baroque splendor of Saint Ignatius Church, the Handel Choir of Baltimore presented an exquisite performance of the hardy Advent perennial, Handel's Messiah. Melinda O'Neal's subtle direction of the choir created more than brilliant sound; it brought out the tonal range and theological soul of the oratario. Highlights were the chorus "Since by man came death," reduced to a musical whisper about the certitude of death, and the apocalyptic chorus "Worthy is the lamb that was slain," in which the triumphant hymns of praise crescendo into a literal shout. Using period instruments, the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra provided intimate accompaniment to the singers, although the "pastoral symphony" embedded in the oratorio sounded muddier than the rest of the performance. The small brass section was a standout, especially in the eschatological movements concerning the Last Judgment. Providing vivid interpretations of the oratorio's recitatives and airs, Katharine Dain (soprano), Ian Howell (counter-tenor), Steven Brennfleck (tenor), and Craig Phillips (bass) served the oratorio as vibrant soloists. Ms. Dain and Mr. Howell often thrilled by their rippling variations on the Handel score.
Posted by Guillaume at 6:39 AM