April 2011: Handel Messiah

Exeter Cathedral, Monday 11 April 2011, 7.30pm

Source: David Batty

Messiah Traditions, Old And New

Old traditions die hard at performances of Messiah and so they did on Monday evening at Exeter Cathedral, when Handel's masterpiece was presented by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Exeter Festival Chorus in a concert postponed from December because of the winter snows.  First, the 'sold out' notice went up very early on and, second, the audience stood for the Hallelujah chorus.  However other, past, traditions were less in evidence. Conductor Nigel Perrin favoured brisk tempi in the choruses which moved the drama on effectively and to which the Festival Chorus provided a lively response.  Perhaps the concert rescheduling affected choir members' availability and hence the choral balance, as the tenor part seemed lighter than usual, but the Chorus was sensitive to all the conductor asked of it.

It was no surprise that the BSO provided excellent support to the singers though the orchestra's volume did, at times, tend to dominate.  However, the musicality of the performance could not be denied, with the four soloists playing their part.  The clarity and diction of tenor Thomas Hobbs were a real joy, while counter-tenor David Allsopp rose well to the dramatic elements of his solos as well as being particularly affecting in 'He shall feed his flock'. Soprano Sarah Tynan and bass-baritone Jonathan Lamalu completed the line-up.  In amongst the current season of numerous choral events in the Exeter area, this performance stood out as a splendid example of the modern Messiah tradition!