An elegant 'Messiah' from Handel Choir of Baltimore
That said, I know we are fortunate to have some fine annual presentations of the oratorio in our area.
For visceral excitement, it's hard to beat the one that Ed Polochick conducts for the BSO. He takes some of the fastest tempos in the West and can coax some of the most sensitive and colorful nuances out of a chorus. He typically has fine soloists as well.
But this year, I decided on the Handel Choir of Baltimore, which delivered an admirable (and abridged) account of "Messiah" Saturday night at St. Ignatius Church -- the 77th year this organization has presented the oratorio, an impressive track record.
As I have noted before, Melinda O'Neal has ...
At either end of the dynamic range, however, I felt a little cheated. I would have welcomed a more delicate pianissimo, a more shattering fortissimo. Even at their loudest, the choristers were easily outgunned by the enthusiastic timpanist. I think this music can handle (so to speak) greater contrasts.
O'Neal paced the score in rather courtly fashion, nothing too fast or too slow -- not that there's anything wrong with that. The performance exuded an air of elegance and intimacy, a feeling aided by the subtle timbre of the fine period instrument orchestra. The orchestra's gentle phrasing of the "Pifa" was an especially telling moment.
Soprano Teresa Wakim offered a pearly tone and vivid ornamentation. Tenor Matthew Anderson used his beautifully rounded, supple voice to make each phrase speak eloquently.
I found the timbre of countertenor Charles Humphries a bit edgy, but his singing had a good deal of communicative weight. Timothy LeFebvre's mellow baritone and technical finesse rounded out the solo quartet admirably.