This looks back to the kind of forces that the composer would have had at his disposal, giving an authentic touch to a modern rendering. Gone are the days (fortunately!) of gigantic choral forces and huge orchestras. The music sounds all the better for it.
Messiah, though undoubtedly Handel’s best oratorio, is in one sense atypical, as the text is drawn mainly from the New Testament. Handel’s famous oratorios use Old Testament texts. But Messiah seems to have elicited from the composer the most sustained outpouring of inspired melody, harmony and counterpoint, such that the music has remained at the top of the sacred pops.
The chief difference between Handel’s operas and his oratorios lies in the extensive writing for the chorus in the latter genre. The choral contribution to this performance was at an exceptionally high level of expertise, with unfailingly good balance between the four sections of the choir and accurate, clear vocal entries.
The soloists did well. New to me was the soprano, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi, who proved to be a real find. Her voice is clear, focused, and smooth – and she sang with conviction. Veramarie Meyer also sang with conviction, though her voice has less power than one would have liked to have heard.
Nicholas Nicolaidis, the tenor, started off with a less than rounded tone but soon improved. The bass, Aubrey Lodewyk, managed the florid parts of his arias with aplomb even if there was a certain amount of approximation in the rapid runs. Altogether, a treat for the customary large audience.