COMPOSERS: George Frederic Handel
LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: Handel
PERFORMER: Julia Doyle (soprano), Lawrence Zazzo (countertenor), Steve Davislim (tenor), Neal Davies; Bavarian Radio Chorus; B’Rock Belgian Baroque Orchestra Ghent/Peter Dijkstra
CATALOGUE NO: BR Klassik 900510
Handel’s Messiah is a work of tireless brilliance. Each of its three parts has a distinct character in which the narratives of nativity, crucifixion and resurrection are rehearsed with extraordinary tenderness. How, then, to break it across two discs? Recorded live from a sequence of performances, Peter Dijkstra’s account with the B’Rock and the Bavarian Radio choir breaks after ‘All we, like sheep, have gone astray’. The first section motors along cheerfully, with plenty of kick from a continuo section that includes harpsichord, organ and (unusually) theorbo, and beautifully swishy phrasing from the choir. The busy inanity stops at ‘And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all’ with the most desolate, gray and desperately sad pianissimo: a moment of horrified acknowledgment of the sacrifice that is about to take place and cannot be halted.
This is a point of high drama in a performance that is never less than stylish and, perhaps most importantly, heartfelt. One could quibble with diction that is more tightly crimped at the beginning of phrases than at their end. (The choir’s English is otherwise excellent.) These are tiny blips in an otherwise immensely rewarding interpretation. Tenor Steve Davislim favours rolled ‘R’s like a Highland crofter, an odd adornment to solidly heroic phrasing, while bass Neal Davies and countertenor Lawrence Zazzo opt for visceral theatricality in their delivery of text, Zazzo tiring somewhat in the process. Soprano Julia Doyle sings with sweetness and candour, decorating ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ vivaciously.