Monday, February 26, 2024

An abridged Messiah was one other terrific night from Laurence Equilbey, her choir and orchestra – Seen and Heard Worldwide


FranceFrance Handel, Messiah (abridged): Marie Lys (soprano), Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian (countertenor), Stuart Jackson (tenor), Alex Rosen (bass), accentus, Insula Orchestra / Laurence Equilbey (conductor). Auditorium Patrick Devedjian, La Seine Musicale, Paris, 5.12.2023. (CC)

Laurence Equilbey conducts accentus and the Insula Orchestra

This considerably abridged Messiah – one interval, 2 hours 20 minutes roughly – provided a refreshing tackle a piece that has lengthy been a seasonal favorite in the UK. With the certain, clear traces of accentus (most lately heard in Sky Burial on the Barbican: evaluate right here), supreme readability from the instrumental ensemble and an total conception that introduced this work collectively as not often earlier than, this was a terrific night.

The streamlined model did imply some somewhat giant cuts from the second half (plus some omissions from the flanking components additionally), however the end result was eminently satisfying musically.

Sadly, the scheduled soprano soloist, Sandine Piau, cancelled on the eleventh hour – it was good luck, although that Marie Lys was obtainable at such quick discover. As lately as this summer time I reported on Lys with Christophe Rousset and his Les Talens Lyriques within the very good Ave Maris Stella programme at Baroque Itinéraire. She is an up-and-coming singer who has already made her mark internationally, together with Clorinda in Rossini’s La Cenerentola in Switzerland. She sings with a freshness and purity that’s outstanding. Many, myself amongst them, may need come for Piau, however there was no retrospective musical disappointment in any way. Lys was like a ray of sunshine within the duet in the direction of the top of Half One (‘Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened …’). Her ‘I do know that my Redeemer liveth’ (from the third and ultimate half) was gloriously pure and heartfelt. Insula’s phrasing on this final was stuffed with grace – the proper partnership.

Countertenor Paul-Antoine Bénos-Djian has a novel, darkish, fruity sound however there appears to be one thing of a break in his voice that makes the intense lowest finish of the countertenor register timbrally disjunct from the remainder. He took ‘However who might abide’ on this efficiency (it may be sung additionally by soprano or bass), however he appeared much less refined in supply than his soloistic companions there and total.

Tenor Stuart Jackson took an nearly operatic view of his solos, stuffed with drama and, certainly, gesture. Alex Rosen is a advantageous, clear bass of wonderful pitching and assault, simply missing within the final iota of character that, say, Ashley Riches (a stalwart of this half); ‘Why do the nations so furiously rage collectively’.

The readability of accentus is outstanding, their sound infinitely malleable. How shiny the choir sounded whereas delivering ‘For unto us a toddler is born’ with pinpoint accuracy after the palpable shadows of Rosen’s ‘The people who walked in darkness’. On the different finish of the dimensions, their ‘Since by man got here loss of life’ was a second of darkish stillness (with little accent on the phrase ‘Demise’) – a plateau of sound that contrasted maximally to the Corinthians-derived textual content ‘even so in Christ shall all be made alive’.

However for all of the excellence of the person soloists and the trivialities of element and stability, the only most notable component of this efficiency was Laurence Equilbey’s conception. There was a markedly completely different emotional territory for every half, with the second solid in notably darkish hues. The ultimate refrain, ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ carried a lot pomp, but it surely was the fugal ‘Amen’ that topped the efficiency completely, shorn of any pointless heaviness, glowing brightly.

A malleable continuo group helped in that shading, with notably clever use made from the lute (André Henrich). And it could be not possible to conclude with out a point out of the trumpet solo, carried out by Serge Tizac, who provided a extra nuanced view of the half than that provided, in my expertise, the UK’s omnipresent David Blackadder.

This was an excellent night. A pity many of the row in entrance of me took it upon themselves to file huge chunks of the primary half regardless of a transparent announcement on the contrary; all credit score to the usher who, upon prompting, sorted this out firmly and successfully. And thank goodness bottoms remained resolutely glued to seats in the course of the ‘Hallelujah’ refrain – the outdated, interruptive observe of standing in UK performances does extra hurt than good.

Insula triumphs once more, then. The New Yr brings a return of Yoann Bourgeois’s imagining of the Mozart Requiem (my 2019 evaluate right here) and – the one that basically piques curiosity – Schubert’s Fourth Symphony (one of many composer’s less-performed symphonies) and Emilie Mayer’s Symphony No.1. A good quantity of Meyer’s music has been recorded by the cpo label, together with a disc of her first two symphonies, and the recordings point out lots to sit up for.

Colin Clarke

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