Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Messiah Bicket/English Concert/Barbican

I'm a bit late with this one but it's lasted in the memory. This town has been flooded with Messiahs this year as ever but prima inter pares has probably been the ENO production, created for the stage by Deborah Warner. This is, of course, because ENO wanted to put on a Messiah to get bums on seats. I don't understand why they didn't simply put the band on the stage. The Messiah's not for staging; it has all the rhetorical abstraction of the gospels (why the Passions shouldn't be staged either, incidentally).

That's not to say that Messiah has no drama. In the performance I saw last Wednesday Harry Bicket really demands that his musicians respond to the latent drama in this oldest and most familiar of stories. No-one needs staggering, dancing or grafted-on gestures to communicate this piece, especially with singing and playing this good.

Lucy Crowe is the gilt voice to a contradictory but opulent collection of soloists both floating and pointing notes with ease and pathos, as well as tearing up the joint with one of the fastest but least troubled Rejoice Greatlys I've ever heard. Allan Clayton's febrile but manly tenor was well matched to her in every respect. The lower voices - the voices of us here below on earth were totemic and resonant. I particularly liked Patricia Bardon.

It was all about the orchestra though, supernaturally in tune in both pitch and ensemble and making small gestures tell with the same weight as grand lyric sentences of music. Oh, and apparently people still stand up for the Hallelujah Chorus, amazingly.

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