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And what of those soloists? Susan Gritton was wonderfully radiant. Her voice has developed a richness and depth so that she cannot quite articulate the angelic purity that is called for in part 1, but her performance was so expressive that I forgave her. And 'I know that my redeemer liveth' was truly moving. Whereas Susan Gritton looked as if she could have sung the part from memory, Sara Mingardo gave the impression that singing Messiah is not a regular occurrence for her. She brought to the role a real dark contralto sound, but she eschewed heaviness. Her interpretation was remarkable for the lightness she brought to the part, in this she was aided by Colin Davis. Between them the came up with an interpretation of 'He was despised' which managed to give the piece its full emotional depth without ever being turgid, fleetness and lightness combined with emotional profundity.

Mark Padmore is a very communicative, direct singer, at his best in such dramatic pieces as 'He shall break them with a rod of iron'. He ideally combined large gestures with a feel for the baroque piece that worked well in the context of this performance. Alistair Miles brought a welcome feel of the Italian opera to his performances of the bravura bass arias. I have rarely heard these bass solos so well sung and richly sounding.

The programme gave no details of the editorial decisions behind the selection of movements. This was very much a traditional Messiah, using the Peters Edition. Unfortunately the printed libretto in the programme book seemed to get very confused as to who was supposed to be singing what.

This was not a performance for every day, I would always want to go back to my period-practice recordings. But I would not wish to confine my listening to such; Davis and the LSO brought a welcome new light on familiar territory. The performance was being recorded for the LSO Live label, so I look forward to hearing it again.

Copyright © 12 December 2006 Robert Hugill, London UK



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