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16.12.11

Reaching My M-Word Quota

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Handel, Messiah, A. Tynan,
A. Coote, A. Clayton, M. Rose, Academy of Ancient Music, Choir of King's College, Cambridge,
S. Cleobury
Charles T. Downey, National Symphony Orchestra and Matthew Halls offer average ‘Messiah’ (Washington Post, December 16, 2011)
It is pointless to complain about the annual ritual of Christmastime performances of Handel’s oratorio “Messiah.” Yes, the work is focused on the passion and death of Jesus, making it more appropriate to Eastertide, when it was first performed in Dublin in 1742. It is not a liturgical work, either, intended as it was for a public theater, with the circuslike intermission feature of Handel performing his own organ concertos: Jonathan Swift, then dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, almost scuttled the premiere by initially forbidding cathedral choristers to take part in the performance because of the perceived crossing of sacred-secular lines. Still, no one can begrudge the National Symphony Orchestra its yearly slop at the “Messiah” trough, when in spite of the gluttonous saturation of the city’s churches and auditoriums with performances of this oratorio, the ensemble can expect to fill the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with people, many of whom do not regularly buy NSO tickets. [Continue reading]
SEE ALSO:
On Messiah, see the informative accounting of the work's premiere in Thomas Forrest Kelly's book Five Nights: Five Musical Premieres

Cathedral Choral Society still listed with the NSO Messiah in the Washington Post as late as Thanksgiving weekend

Recent reviews of the Cathedral Choral Society:
Glagolitic Mass at National Shrine | Russian program | Bernstein's Mass

From Alfred Thigpen's review of the CCS performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis:
Some performances are better learned from and then forgotten. For Music Director J. Reilly Lewis and the Cathedral Choral Society, that could take a while. “It’s something in the air,” Lewis announced from the podium to a near-capacity crowd on Sunday at Washington National Cathedral. What was in the ether were disruptive stops and start-overs in Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis.” A venerable choral conductor, Lewis found himself mired in an uncharacteristic nightmare of contrasts, ranging from redemptive eloquence on second takes to onstage frustration best summarized by a vocal soloist’s audible sigh."
Recent NSO performances of Messiah:
2010 (UMd Chorus) | 2009 (Washington Chorus) | 2008 (Master Chorale)
2007 (Master Chorale) | 2006 (Cathedral Choral Society)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Given your understandable jadedness about Messiah, I wonder if you summoned the will to attend Owen Burdick's version yesterday. I thought it was one of the best, most nuanced, performances I have ever heard. A completely different take on the usual presentation. It wasn't perfect, by any means; some ragged entrances and the like, but also some extraordinary moments.

Charles T. Downey said...

Thanks for the report. I recommended this performance and had thought about attending but in the end had other priorities. How are you connected to the performers?