Tafelmusik Delivers a Noble and Festive Messiah

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tafelmusik Tafelmusik (Cylla von Tiedemann)


In the days of record stores, harried clerks were routinely asked the same question every year at this time: what’s the best recording of Handel’s Messiah? Never mind that the oratorio was intended for performance around Easter, or even that it is carries a distinctly religious message, it has become an all but inescapable part of American Christmas festivities.

Although dozens of fine recordings of Handel's 1741 oratorio are currently available (ArkivMusic lists 119), the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir makes a persuasive case for their latest interpretation, released on their in-house label. Recorded last December at Koerner Hall in Toronto, it features a moderately sized chorus and orchestra (25 members each), delivering a full sonority in the big choral numbers and a reflective intimacy in the solo arias.

Poll: What's Your Favorite Moment in the Messiah?

Needless to say, if your idea of Messiah involves pomp and grandiosity, you may look elsewhere. The orchestra playing here is crisp, taut and articulate. The quartet of soloists – soprano Karina Gauvin, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Rufus Müller and baritone Brett Polegato – is well seasoned. Standouts include Polegato’s beautifully shaped aria, “That people walked into darkness,” and Gauvin’s bright “Rejoice greatly.”

For those who can't resist the urge to participate, Tafelmusik has also released a DVD of its annual sing-along version of Messiah, in which conductor Ivars Taurins dons a wig and plays the part of the irascible George Frederic, hamming it up for the 3,000 participants. It’s not for everyone, but it goes to show the staying power and versatility of this Christmas-season favorite.

Handel's Messiah
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir
Available at Arkvimusic.com



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Comments [6]

Diane from New York City

There are so many 'highlights' to "The Messiah" that it's impossible to choose. 'Oh thou that tellest glad tidings from Zion' or 'Oh, Death, where is thy victory?' stand out at the moment. But - again - which part of this gem ISN'T wonderful!??

On a comic note: I first went to a performance of "The Messiah" at a church in New Haven. My father (an avid music lover) took me and, as I heard one part of the work, I turned to my dad and asked him, "What does that mean....'Are we like sheep?' "

I still chuckle at that, to this day.

Dec. 21 2012 09:05 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

It is impossible for me to choose only one favorite part of Handel's Messiah! After the Hallelujah Chorus (naturally), some of my other favorite moments include "Comfort Ye My People", "The Glory of the Lord", "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion", "Glory to God", "Let All the Angels of God Worship Him", "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth", "The Trumpet Shall Sound", "Worthy is the Lamb", and of course, that wonderful closing "Amen".
Although I have several recordings of Messiah, I still look forward every year to your special broadcast of this masterpiece, and I will certainly be listening again this year. Thank you for all the great special programming you have provided throughout this holiday season!

Dec. 18 2012 07:53 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

Why these choices only? Who picked them? Among the high points for me (though I am a bass-baritone and have sung the bass solos) is the opening tenor recitative ("Comfort ye, my people"); also, the soprano's "Rejoice greatly".

Dec. 18 2012 11:30 AM
Joyce Durgerian from Milwaukee

For me the most meaningful part is "They trusted in Him---"

Dec. 17 2012 04:41 PM
Peter Green from New Jersey

After the Halleujah Choral, the exquisite I know that my Redeemer Lvieth is a gentle statment of faith and love.

Dec. 17 2012 02:27 PM
Debi Unger from Bradley Beach, NJ

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth is my favorite aria-the music is absolutely gorgeous

Dec. 17 2012 12:21 PM

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