Tunes Evaluation: ‘Messiah’ Performances by Musica Sacra and St. Thomas Choir

December 14th, 2013

Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Occasions

Messiah The St. Thomas Choir of Gentlemen and Boys, led by John Scott at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, in this Handel function.

Two of the most venerable and dependable of the yearly presentations of Handel’s “Messiah” in New York went head-to-head this week. John Scott performed the St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys at St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue on Tuesday night and once more on Thursday, the same night time that Kent Tritle carried out Musica Sacra in the first of its two performances at Carnegie Hall.

The St. Thomas “Messiah” performances developed by means of the late seventies, as Gerre Hancock, the church’s choirmaster, executed elements of the operate, then all of it, by means of 2003. Mr. Scott, who turned the church’s audio director in 2004, has stored the tradition alive in performances employing the church’s choir of male pros and boys from its choir university in collaboration with the period-instrument ensemble Concert Royal.

Musica Sacra, an superb skilled chorus of men and females and an orchestra of freelancers actively playing traditional instruments, has done “Messiah” each year because 1976, led for a few many years by its founder, Richard Westenburg. Mr. Tritle, now the ensemble’s songs director, took over this custom for the terminally unwell Mr. Westenburg in 2007.

Regardless of whether employing outdated devices or new, boys or women, the two Mr. Scott and Mr. Tritle just take present notions of interval apply greatly into account. And one of the places in which that seems to subject most at the minute is in the at any time escalating use of ornamentation, especially when melodies are recurring.

The elaborations may involve a modest trill or other inflection of a observe the real addition of notes, filling in gaps amongst other folks or creating purposeful disjunctures or even huge cadenza-like thrives. And what was maybe more exceptional than the obvious distinctions between these two performances was their similarity in the liberties granted to performers, particularly the vocal soloists.

The St. Thomas soloists — Amanda Forsythe, soprano Christopher Ainslie, countertenor, Dann Coakwell, tenor and Jason Hardy, bass — created an effective group on Tuesday, each with an appealing tonal high quality, an obvious desire to connect the text and an inventiveness in ornamentation that was usually to the musical and textual position.

Ms. Forsythe — who demonstrated her Handel mastery at the Boston Early Music Competition in June, in the centerpiece opera, “Almira” — was again superb, growing stronger as the evening went on (in marked distinction to Mr. Hardy, who started strongly and wonderfully but appeared to dress in in the later on heading).

The Musica Sacra soloists — Leslie Fagan, soprano Ian Howell, countertenor Colin Balzer, tenor and Sidney Outlaw, baritone — had been more uneven in tone and projection on Thursday, and in a handful of instances a tiny also free and demonstrate-offy in their use of ornamentation. What could Mr. Howell’s large upward leap at the start of the phrase “acquainted with grief” have been intended to signify?

No issue, it was excellent to hear equally of these mainstay presentations in ongoing excellent health. May possibly they reign — alongside with the more recent Trinity Wall Street “Messiah” — for ever and at any time.

Musica Sacra will perform “Messiah” once more on Sunday night at Carnegie Hall 212-247-7800,

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