Tuesday, February 28, 2012

REVIEW: Handel’s Messiah by The Sixteen

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Saturday February 25

I know it is silly, but the first thing I did was to count… The Sixteen was comprised of 18 choir members, 23-piece orchestra, 4 soloists and 1 conductor, appropriately baroque and un-Victorian (when choir of thousands and big orchestra were used to please the crowd). For the 40th Hong Kong Arts Festival, The Sixteen presented two concerts, this and another one in previous night (programme included: Handel’s Let thy hand be strengthened, Silete Venti, Nisi Dominus and Dixit Dominus).

Overall, the performance was lighter and more relaxed than what I expected from a period performance. Conductor Harry Christophers kept regular and firm rhythms that was confident but not over-dramatic. The best part of the evening was the chorus. They gave an impassioned performance that was balanced, precise and most importantly clear. When with the orchestra, the balance was even more impressive, musical lines were finely separated and dynamics were sensitively managed.

Amongst the soloists, I am familiar with countertenor Robin Blaze for his recordings and his performance last year (with Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan); and tenor James Gilchrist for his recordings. Robin Blaze sounded surprisingly strained in part 1 but was fine after the interval. James Gilchrist, on the other hand, offered a performance of beautifully controlled modulations and colourful phrasings. Soprano Gillian Keith produced a sweet gorgeous tone to go with a heartfelt reading, though I find her vibrato a bit too fast for my taste. The best performance though came from bass-baritone Matthew Brook with his beautiful even tone, remarkable technique and most of all unbeatable diction.

As for standing during “Hallelujah”, I am proud to report that almost everybody did. I, for one am for “standing”. Of course, there is no musical or liturgical reason for it. Even the story of how King George II started it was dubious… BUT traditions are traditions. Some members of the audience were glad to show off their “cultural knowhow” and some where happy to cluelessly follow. As for me, I was just glad to get a chance to stretch my legs!

Messiah HWV 56

The Sixteen
Conductor: Harry Christophers
Soprano: Gillian Keith
Countertenor: Robin Blaze
Tenor: James Gilchrist
Bass-Baritone: Matthew Brook

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At February 29, 2012 at 7:42 AM , Blogger Meaghan said...

I do reviews and previews at my blog as well. I really like your site and your reviews. I'll be doing an upcoming production in May. Are you interested in coming to see it in exchange for a review? *tickets are gratis*

At February 29, 2012 at 10:58 AM , Blogger SATOSHI said...

Dear Meaghan,
Thank you very much for writing and for your invitation. If schedule allows, I would be most happy to go and see your production in May and also write a review. Feel free to write on the wall of my Facebook page to inform me of the production, date and time. Regards


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