Wednesday 19 December 2018

A triumphal Messiah

The Hanover Band & Chorus, Andrew Arthur
The Hanover Band & Chorus, Andrew Arthur
Handel Messiah;
Erica Eloff, Timothy Morgan, Bradley Smith, Edward Grint, The Hanover Band and Chorus, Andrew Arthur; Kings Place

Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 17 December 2018 

Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Anthony enjoys a dramatically vivid, dynamic and beautiful Messiah from The Hanover Band

Edward Grint, The Hanover Band, Andrew Arthur
Edward Grint, The Hanover Band, Andrew Arthur
It’s Christmas, so naturally out rolls the behemoth that is Messiah, and on Monday 17 December 2018 The Hanover Band and Chorus under the direction of Andrew Arthur brought their period expertise to Hall One of Kings Place. They were joined by the soprano Erica Eloff, tenor Bradley Smith, alto Timothy Morgan and bass Edward Grint.

Formed in 1980 The Hanover Band’s primary objective is for audiences to get ‘a better feeling for what earlier music actually sounded like’. The idea that there is ‘a method’ that can be applied ‘scientifically’ to magically reproduce a composer’s ‘original intention’ has always seemed a stretch too far but given the fusty excrescences that Messiah has acquired in the last few hundred years a greater fidelity to the original sound can only be a good thing. That said, striving for authenticity by the slavish adherence to baroque practice is like Marmite (other spreads are available) and can render, to me at any rate, the ‘authentic’ colourless. But from the first bars of the Sinfony it was plain that The Hanover Band’s idea of ‘authentic’ would be anything but dull.

To say their performance was a breath of fresh air would be to do them a disservice. This was the full steam clean with pressure washers, and what emerged was a work that sparkled like new.

The tempi seem brisker than I’m used to hearing, but none the worse for it. What was striking was the crispness and clarity not just of the Band but the Chorus too. It wasn’t just about precision, the old muddy agglomeration I remembered was replaced by music that was dramatically vivid, dynamic and beautiful. And joy of joys to hear the words! Delicious.

Neither did the evening’s soloists disappoint. Poised and restrained rather than histrionic they used the words like they meant something. Phrasing was elegant with ornamentation that was finely turned and stylish rather than ostentatious (it’s so nice to hear a trill for once rather than a wobble) and some exquisitely judged dynamics that would have made my hair stand up if I had any.

The Hanover Band & Chorus, Andrew Arthur
The Hanover Band & Chorus, Andrew Arthur
I really don’t remember Messiah being so spine-tingling or harmonically squishy. Heaven forfend, there’s a danger with a performance as convincing as this, I might actually cast off some of my mistrust of ‘authentic’ performance. A triumph.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Towards the Global Jukebox - feature article
  • Echoes of Parsifal: songs and piano music by Robin Holloway on Delphian (★★★½) - CD review
  • Clarinettist dedications: Roeland Hendrikx in three contrasting concertos for clarinet (★★★½)  - CD review
  • Carols and more: Our annual Christmas disc round-up - CD review
  • Reviving Mozart in Wales & family connections in Milton Keynes: I chat to conductor Damian Iorio - my interview
  • Chocolate covered fairy-tale: Hänsel und Gretel at Covent Garden (★★★½) - opera review
  • Joyous discovery: Alessandro Scarlatti's Messa per il Santissimo Natale (★★★★)  - concert review
  • Powerful memorial: composer Andrew Smith on his Requiem dedicated to the victims of the 2011 Utøya massacre in Norway  - interview
  • Christmas in Leipzig: Solomon's Knot in Bach, Schelle & Kuhnau (★★★★) - concert review
  • Winter Fragments: Chamber music by Michael Berkeley (★★★½) - CD review
  • Intimate delight: 18th century chamber cantatas from Tim Mead, Louise Alder & Arcangelo - (★★★★½)  concert review
  • A new record label, a new disc: I chat to Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka about bel canto and more  - interview
  • French Collection: 18th century harpsichord music (★★★½) - CD review
  • Truly scrumptious: the choir of St George's Chapel, Windsor in music for Advent (★★★★) - concert review
  • Home

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