Friday 1 April 2016

Barely an Anglophone singer in sight - Handel's Messiah from Prague

Collegium 1704, Vaclav Luks in Prague
Collegium 1704, Vacslav Luks in Prague
It is not so long ago that non-Anglophone performers shied away from recording Handel's English oratorios, with the occasional exception of Scandinavian or German performers. Anniversaries would be celebrated with performances of the Italian oratorios. In this, as in many things, William Christie was something of a trailblazer with Les Arts Florissants, using a mixture of Anglophone and non-Anglophone singers, showing what could be done. And more recently, European choirs would perform Handel in English but often with Anglophone soloists.

But in the last few years, listening to performances at the music colleges in London I have been struck by how many young singers come out of their training singing creditable English, expressive English. I remember in 2013 hearing the young Catalan tenor Eduard Mas Bacardit giving a highly communicative account of English song in recital, I remember the Argentinian bass Lisandro Abadie winning the London Handel Singing Competition in 2008 and going on to perform in a number of Handel oratorios at the London Handel Festival, and in 2015 the Spanish baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé took the first prize in the competition.

So it is perhaps no surprise to find that I was sent a link to a performance of Handel's Messiah recorded in Prague with Collegium 1704, conducted by Václav Luks (the original appeared on FranceTvInfo's CultureBox). The soloists are Marie-Sophie Pollak (soprano), Raffaele Pe (alto), Krystian Adam (tenor), Krešimir Stražanac (bass). As you can see, not an Anglophone singer in sight, yet the whole is given in creditable and, most importantly, highly communicative English.You can judge for yourself as the whole video is available after the break.

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