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Crisp and Stylish

Derby Choral Union peforms Handel's 'Messiah',
enjoyed by MIKE WHEELER


As someone generally prone to Messiah-fatigue I thoroughly enjoyed this, as I knew I would, right from the start of the crisply-played Sinfony. Quite simply this was one of the freshest, most buoyant performances of Messiah I've heard for a long time (Derby Cathedral, Derby, UK, 19 December 2009).

Under Richard Dacey's spirited direction, and with beautifully clean and vigorous playing from the Heart of England Chamber Orchestra, it was all sparklingly crisp and stylish. The choir sang with such clarity and precision that they sounded at times -- and I mean this as a very big compliment -- like a much smaller body of singers. The fugal choruses at the start of Part 2 were splendidly robust, and the sequence from 'Why do the Nations' to 'Thou Shalt Break Them' was vivid and punchy.

The soloists were generally impressive -- alto Catherine Hopper, movingly unaffected and straightforward in 'He was despised', tenor Greg Tassell gracefully fluent in 'Ev'ry Valley', bass Samuel Evans authoritative without ponderousness in 'The Trumpet Shall Sound'; soprano Natasha Day was appealing in 'How Beautiful are the Feet', though her tone was rather less well focussed elsewhere. All four were adept at expressive ornamentation.

And hooray for a performance that placed the interval at the end of Part 1, rather than some illogical point in the middle of Part 2.

Copyright © 26 December 2009 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK







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