Perhaps one of the most familiar pieces of music world wide, Handel’s great oratorio is probably best known for that one great and rousing chorus. Great it is too, but the work is full of a surprising number of other famous passages that the given familiarity on this occasion defies contempt, the work is simply glorious.

Messiah, November 2023, with the Glyndebourne Chorus and Glyndebourne Sinfonia, conducted by Bertie Baigent. Photo: Photos: Bill Knight, © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd

And where better to hear it than in the perfect acoustic of Glyndebourne performed by their immaculate chorus and orchestra joined by four stunning soloists.

Conductor Bertie Baigent teased from the Glyndebourne Sinfonia a magical performance, dynamic, colourful, gentle when needed and powerful too at the moments when required. The chorus as ever were on top form, such control and delicacy and again that mighty power at all the right moments.

Tenor Benjamin Hulett’s commanding opening was filled with passion and drama and there is a clarity of diction that commanded our attention to the words.

Bass-baritone Ashley Riches brought equal drama to the performance, a voice that demanded our attention and brought moments of almost terror.

Contralto Jess Dandy added richness and warmth and again such clarity, a clarity that made you listen to not only every note but every word.

Soprano Johanna Wallroth soared above the whole, precise but never shrill, and what power she has coming from what appears to be such a tiny frame.

From all of this came something very special too. I refer above to the clarity of the words and with surtitles above it was easy to pay attention to the text and notice perhaps for the first time some very very poignant lines.

Why do the nations so furiously rage together” in particular struck deep at this time of terrible global conflict. A timely and timeless reminder that religious faiths of all kinds have, throughout history, been the cause of wars and of terrorism. Why is it that such appalling behaviour, behaviour that creates death and destruction, can also be the inspiration behind so many great works of art and music? On the one hand we must be grateful for the good things that come from this but we should never forget the horrors that seem never to go away.

The line “All we like sheep have gone astray” could not seem more appropriate.

Andrew Kay


3 December

Rating: ★★★★★

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