The ”Messiah” with flight and colour

The ”Messiah” with flight and colour
Mogens Dahl performed Handel’s immortal oratory with dramatic fervour in Holmen’s Church, Copenhagen

[…] With Mogens Dahl and his chamber choir, you get the real thing. And the rumour has spread gradually. This year, the fact that all was sold out for the two concerts in Holmen’s Church could be announced well in advance and, although new singers were found among the four soloists, the direction was the same as in 2017: an excellent interpretation with flight and colour, agilely conducted by maestro Mogens Dahl himself and with a minimum of pause between the varied recitations, choir passages and pure orchestral pieces – and, again this year, a total absence of dragging music.

The beautiful melodies are delivered like pearls on a string and remind one that Handel was an extremely productive opera composer before he, quite reluctantly, but to the delight of generations of music lovers, threw himself at the oratory genre.

The dramaturgical colouring was emphasised by the young singer quartet, not least the young, Polish contra tenor Jakub Józef Orlinski. Generally, many would probably prefer a female alto’s warm tone for this part (for example, like last year’s Swedish Karolina Blixt); However, on the other hand, Orlinski showed tremendous glow and impact in his sometimes somewhat free vocal displays and his intensity fit in well with the whole.

The Tenor James Way provided a powerful experience throughout, boyish in appearance and with a virtually naive gaze into the church room, following the overture, when we first heard the human voice in the work. It happened with the two words that once lit the flame of inspiration in Handel: Comfort ye! In a biblical perspective, those two words are a warning of blessing, and here they became, in a narrower sense, a warning that we would experience a ‘Messiah’ that would live up to our joyful expectations.

The Canadian bass, Gordon Bintner, had ample authority and vocal power to face all the challenges, even the probably greatest, at the end of the aria ‘The trumpet shall sound’. The English Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment encircled his promising words with the trumpet’s devoted efforts, responded to by a miraculous echoing effect by the first violins – one of numerous intense moments in a completely stylistically consistent performance.

Denise Beck was the only woman in the quartet and the only one who was also in last year’s performance. She lit up the performance again with her clear, natural singing, not least in the aria ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’.

One of Handel’s many strokes of genius is to let these heartfelt words be the first after the mighty Hallelujah choir – when the audience in Holmen’s Church followed the tradition of standing up during the roar of choir and orchestra.

This evening, we were given a full measure of biblical drama side by side with heartfelt religiousness – and that is exactly what makes any authentic and respectful performance of the ’Messiah’ a gripping experience.