April 12 - I have just returned from a very spring-like Handel’s Messiah. What a joy it was! I have seen many Messies in my time but I am tempted to say this was the most sublime. It was not that any one performer or ensemble was particularly outstanding but that the conductor, Marc Andreae, made such a wonderful sum out of all the parts. I found myself wondering where he came from and read the programme notes during the interval. Mr A is Swiss and, at the risk of being stereotypical, conducted the singers, choirs and orchestra with the elegance and precision of a Swiss clock.
Apart from the bass (Hans Christoph Begemann) none of the soloists (Brit soprano Deborah York, the German soprano Ursula Eittenger, tenor Albrecht Sack) had a heavyweight voice, although all had a lovely tone. Mr Andreae kept the volume of the fine tuned Estonian symphony orchestra fairly low to show the singers off to best advantage. The Ellerhein Girls Choir (Tallinn) and the Estonian Men’s Choir sang to perfection. I found myself sniffling in a terrific Hallelujah chorus – not a hell-for-leather attack but a beautifully modulated big sound with a moderate tempo – for several reasons. Handel was such a heartfelt and sincere believer that, even though I am not, the feeling of elation is irresistible.
The story goes that Handel's assistant walked into his room after shouting to him for several minutes with no response. The assistant found Handel in tears, and, when asked what was wrong, the composer held up the score of the chorus and said, "I thought I saw the face of God." I can believe it! Secondly, Messiah is a piece always associated with the British Isles. It premiered in – wonderful name - Fishamble Street, Dublin, was popular and played many times in England and so reminds me of things I have left behind and of my British and Irish friends …
There was a very good feel about the whole evening. The soprano and the mezzo smiled a lot at one another and sang along with the choirs, something I have not noticed before. At the end all the musicians were given a standing ovation and the choirmaster and -mistress ascended the stage for big hugs and flowers all around and the conductor showered the choirs with the flowers he had been given in a fine display of bonhomie.
Messiah usually plays in the UK in Christmas (Unto us, etc) but tonight’s light, bright, inspired interpretation, truly a wonderful night of magnificent music, was just the right thing to launch a tired soul, fed up with the credit crunch, global warming and doom and gloom generally into the joys of spring! Hallelujah!
And, when I returned home I found that the Easter bunny had left a painted boiled egg and a choc in my letterbox …
Bird Droppings from Estonia: Handel’s Messiah in Eesti (2)