Expect to hear plenty of Handel’s music in the coming months – the 250th anniversary of his death is next year. Here was a taste of things to come, two concerts featuring the composer’s best known choral work and a rare performance of one familiar only to committed Handel enthusiasts.
The City of Birmingham Choir’s advent performance of Messiah has become a fixture in the city’s musical life and their collaboration with the CBSO yielded another splendid performance of this evergreen work.
Adrian Lucas conducted a slimmed down orchestra and the smaller body of strings meant that in The trumpet shall sound the excellent contributions by trumpet and timpani rang out unimpeded.
Rhythms were well-sprung, underpinned by harpsichord and organ, and bounced along in We like sheep, matched by the nimble singing of the choir who were on fine form.
The familiar Hallelujah chorus can still produce a frisson when performed as well as this.
There were outstanding contributions from the soloists.
The young tenor Allan Clayton’s bright lyric voice smoothly sustained Comfort ye My people but had the reserves of power for Thou shalt break them.
Matthew Best’s ringing bass notes and declamatory thrust unified the sense of Why do the nations so furiously rage with Handel’s sound.
Emily Bauer-Jones’s He was despised was emotion recollected in tranquillity rather than searing passion but she always sang intelligently.
Elizabeth Watts showed why she is a star in the making having won the song prize at last year’s Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. She illuminated the recitative with a lieder singer’s attentiveness to words and an opera singer’s instinct for drama and when she sang I know that my Redeemer liveth I was convinced that she did.