Delight at the Doomsday trumpet

Delight at the Doomsday trumpet
Baroque. Handel’s ‘Messiah’ sails through the city and becomes a revelation in the right hands.

[…] The Late Baroque of Handel’s Messiah effortlessly lets its hightide of hymns fill the carved, wooden interior [of Holmen’s Church]. Experiencing the praises of the rapturous work performed by as exquisite a group as the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment surrounding four sublime solo singers was part of giving the oratory’s peculiar mix of rigor, sweetness, and ecstasy its renewed stamp of eternity.

With delicate pastel colours and playful precision, the Orchestra of the Enlightenment plugs into the time of softened gravity that characterises the 1740s. Here, in each their crafts, the composer Handel and the painter Tiepolo left the heavily varnished High Baroque astern. The fact that, for Handel, the new enveloping movement of Romance waited ahead is another story altogether.

The four soloists all had the glow of energetic people in the style of the mythological aspirants who abound in Handel’s operas. In those works, the arias are juicier because entanglements of love accumulate. The soprano, Denise Beck, was in a splendid dress while the contra tenor, Jakub Jozef Orlinski, the tenor, James Way, and the bass, Gordon Bintner, all looked like the spin doctors of an elven queen in their modern outfit.

The ‘Messiah’ is a three-act performance, just like the operas ‘Alcina’, ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Orlando’ to name the bull’s-eyes. The greatest outbreaks of pain are found in the second act. Alcina complains in an aria of almost 14 minutes. In the ‘Messiah’, the alto aria ‘He was despised’ in the second part about the humiliation of Jesus is the breath-taking sorrowful pit. Along with the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus at the end of the second part and the authoritative bass aria ‘The trumpet shall sound’ in the third part it is one of the most famous parts.

Burdened by legendary female altos’ celebration of ‘He was despised’, one just barely looked askance at the elegant, Polish contra tenor, Orlinski, until he revealed a vocal power that lit up the room like prisms. On the other hand, the authoritative Canadian, Gordon Bintner, competed with David Blackadder’s dizzying virtuoso doomsday trumpet, a resurrection command so frightening that one might consider staying underground.

Basically, this is where the audience should logically stand and not, as has become the custom, during the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus which should nevertheless evade the mortals.

The aria engraved on Handel’s Westminster Abbey tomb, ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’ gave Denise Beck the coolest marble life imaginable. An entirely Rococo cherub was the English tenor, James Way, as the fiery soulful pulse of the oratory. Everything was held together by conductor Mogens Dahl, who with the 16 musicians of the orchestra and 16 singers of the choir painted the prophecies, visions and ecstasy by which we must simply let ourselves be overwhelmed. Composed in three weeks at a time when you could get things done.