Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Toronto's Biggest Messiah

My Christmas music season continued back in Toronto on Dec. 16 with the world premiere (I was at the real thing this time, the first concert) of Sir Andrew Davis' (the TSO Conductor Laureate) new orchestration of Handel's Messiah.  Since there really is no quintessential version of The Messiah and Handel himself changed it several times, likely based on what instrumentalists and soloists were available at the time, this is another in a sequence of expansions.  However, it's one I particularly like!  I think last year it was marketed as "Toronto's Favourite Messiah", but with the new larger orchestra and the rather subjective nature of calling it the "favourite", I'd say "biggest" is pretty hard to argue with.

In his program notes Maestro Davis, who also conducted, says his "aim has been to keep Handel's notes, harmonies, and style intact, but to make use of all the colours available from the modern symphony orchestra to underline the mood and meaning of the individual movements."  I for one love the fuller sound of the brass and woodwinds.

There were times when the added percussion didn't exactly seem to fit.  A few small cymbal rolls that were suppose to symbolize the fluttering of angels wings were odd sounding.

The trumpet solos and duets by Andrew McCandless and the other trumpeter soared as they played from the balcony above the choir beside the organ console.  The extra orchestral sound and the 152 voice choir gave a powerful feel to the "Hallelujah Chorus" that I felt was lacking the last time I saw the TSO perform Messiah.  There was also an awesome clarinet solo by Joaquin Valdepenas at the start of "I know that my Redeemer liveth" to start Part 3.  The second clarinetist was a guy I haven't seen before.  He looked really young, maybe a member of the Youth Orchestra?

For a more professional review I will point you to the one from the Toronto Star.  I hope this gets recorded soon.  I haven't purchased a full version of Messiah, and I think this one is a keeper.

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