Handel's Messiah Conducted by Ton Koopman at Avery Fisher Hall
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The last date listed for Handel's Messiah was Thursday December 18, 2008 / 7:30pm.
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At the beginning I thought they had done an excellent job . I liked the Countertenor a lot( he was truly excellent) and the Soprano was good...nice melodious voice but not much power. The pace of some of the choruses was too fast in many instances for this listener. In Part I the choruses: " And the glory of the Lord", "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion", "For unto us a Child is born" and "Glory to God" were paced correctly. Then it appeared that Conductor, Koopman had a late date or a train to catch and noticeably increased the pacing. In the very last chorus in this opening part: "His yoke is easy" this became apparent to this listener. My observation of too fast pacing was also evident in the choruses in Part II: "Behold the lamb of God", "And with his stripes we are healed", "He trusted in God", "The Lord gave the word" and of course "Hallelujah Chorus." In my judgment, "period instruments", while authentic and was likely the way Handel heard his composition, lack the richness and fullness of modern instruments. Do not get me wrong I thought that it was a very good performance. Would I hear this group perform the work again...absolutely.
About the program
GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685-1759)
Messiah is the quintessential classical music highlight of the holiday season. Composed in an incredible three weeks, Handel’s inspired settings of Old and New Testament texts (selected and compiled by Charles Jennens) is not a typical dramatic story, but rather a 3-part meditation on the prophecy and fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem the world through a savior. Part 1 includes the story of the Nativity (epitomized in the joyous chorus “Unto us a Child is Born.”) Part 2 is the fulfillment of the prophecy through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. The climax of this section is the stirring “Hallelujah” chorus that never fails to bring audiences to their feet. And the last part is a hymn of thanksgiving for the final defeat of death and for life eternal. Among the many highpoints are is the wonderful solo air, “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” the noble concluding chorus “Worth is the Lamb,” and the final “Amen.” Handel had been invited by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Duke of Devonshire, to give a series of benefit concerts for three charities. The Dublin premiere in 1742 was anticipated with great excitement—so much so that a local newspaper pleaded with audiences planning to attend to reduce the bulk of their clothing: “The Stewards of the Charitable Musical Society request the Favour of the Ladies not to come with Hoops this Day to the Musick-Hall in Fishamble Street.
The Gentlemen are desired to come without their Swords, as it will greatly increase the Charity, by making Room for more company.” Eight hundred, rather than the capacity of 700, in fact. It is worth noting, that after the London performances the Puritan clergy took Handel to task for staging Messiah in a playhouse, which was, in those days, considered unholy and unfit for a work involving Biblical texts, though Handel himself never intended it for performance in a church. He was a man of the theater above all. (Paul Henry Lang commented tongue in cheek: “Here it was, the unbelievable: Holy Scripture in the flesh, uttered—nay, sung—by the most lascivious and immoral of persons, theatre folk, and accompanied by a detestable band of fiddlers in the Play House, that damnable institution where no true Christian could enter without being soiled.”) Handel’s last public appearance was as conductor in a London performance of Messiah in 1759—a fitting crown for his career. He died just a few days later. Messiah’s dazzling solos, fireworks instrumental passages, and some of the most glorious choral writing of all time have made it an unequalled favorite throughout the world and have given it nearly ritual status at the holidays. Enjoy this greatest and most beloved oratorio in all its power and majesty.
Ton Koopman, conductor, born in 1944 in Zwolle, the Netherlands
After a classical education Ton Koopman studied organ, harpsichord, and musicology in Amsterdam and was awarded the Prix d’Excellence for both instruments. Almost from the beginning he was fascinated by authentic instruments and a performance style based on thorough scholarship. Even before completing his studies he laid the foundation for a career as a conductor of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music. In 1969, at the age of 25, this fascination of the Baroque era led him to establish his first Baroque orchestra, and in 1979 he founded The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, followed by The Amsterdam Baroque Choir in 1993. Over the course of a forty-five-year career Ton Koopman has appeared as conductor and soloist at important concert halls and festivals on five continents. As an organist he has performed on the most prestigious historical instruments of Europe, and as a harpsichord player and conductor of The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir he has been a regular guest at venues which include the Concertgebouw, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the Philharmonie in Munich, the Alte Oper Frankfurt, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, among others. Between 1994 and 2004 Ton Koopman was engaged in “the recording project of the ’90s (as described by The Guardian in London). He conducted and recorded all existing cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, a massive undertaking for which he has been awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis “Echo Klassik,” the Prix Hector Berlioz, and was nominated for both Grammy and Gramophone awards. He publishes regularly and has been engaged in editing the complete Handel organ concerti. Currently he is artistic director of the Festival Itinéraire Baroque in the Périgord Vert. His extensive and impressive activities as a soloist, accompanist, and conductor have been widely recorded, and future recordings will appear on his own label, “Antoine Marchand.”
ANDREAS SCHOLL, counter-tenor, born in 1967 in Kiedrich, Germany
Andreas Scholl was born into a musical family—his sister is the soparano Elisabeth Scholl, and his father and grandfather were both member of Kiedricher Chorbuben (Choir boys), first documented in 1333, and which he joined at age seven. His home town’s 14th century Gothic church with its ancient organ quite naturally made older music the norm. “I never grew up thinking of ‘early music’ as some special category. To me it has always been as familiar as Beethoven and Mozart,” he says. Scholl often returns to Kiedrich from his home in Basel, Switzerland, and gives concerts in the church in which his musical career began. When he was 13, he was one of some 20,000 choristers from all over the world in Rome for the Pueri Cantores festival. He was chosen to sing solo at Mass and on the following day, accompanied by his choirmasters, he met Pope John Paul II. Between 1987 and 1993 he studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis where he was awarded a Diploma of Ancient Music. His operatic debut came in the role of Bertarido in Handel’s Rodelinda for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, greeted with unprecedented critical acclaim. He is a winner of the 1999 ECHO Awards and the Middle Ages/Renaissance category of the 2002 Edison Awards for his recording of A Musicall Banquet and of the 2006 Classical Brit Singer of the Year award for his recording of Arias for Senesino. He appears regularly at the BBC Proms, and as a committed recital artist has performed at Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Cologne Philharmonie, Concertgebouw, Alte Oper Frankfurt, and the Salzburg Festival, among others. He also was honored to be the first counter-tenor to sing at the world famous Last Night of the Proms offering a program of Handel arias with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Andreas Scholl also was the focus of a Lincoln Center New Visions presentation, created for him in a production by Mark Lamos, entitled The Renaissance Muse, a fully produced program of English lute songs and Shakespearean sonnets co-commissioned by Lincoln Center and the Barbican Centre. Andreas Scholl has released a series of extraordinary solo recordings, including Heroes, a disc of arias by Handel, Mozart, Hasse and Gluck. His discography also includes Handel’s Saul and Solomon and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Monteverdi’s Orfeo and 1610 Vespers and a Gramophone Award winning recording of Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater. Popular culture fun fact: along with his fellow choristers, Andreas Scholl was an extra in the film The Name of the Rose, playing a young monk standing alongside Sean Connery in scenes shot at Kloster Eberbach in Germany.
“Andreas Scholl sings with an ease and beauty that combine to produce a voice that is truly individual—an astonishing natural vocalism that has made Scholl the most popular countertenor of his day.” (Sydney Morning Herald)
JÖRG DÜRMÜLLER, tenor, born in 1959 in Bern, Switzerland
Swiss tenor Jörg Dürmüller is enthusiastic about his return to New York.
“When I was touring here for the first time two years ago under Ton Koopman—works by Bach at Carnegie Hall—all my expectations were surpassed. New York really is the capital of the world, and I dreamed of returning here. As Europeans we tend to know American cities from reading, the movies and TV—maybe even better than cities nearby. And New York is known to me as a melting pot, the city that never sleeps.” Jörg Dürmüller studied violin and voice at the Winterthur Conservatory in Switzerland. Following this he continued his voice studies at the Academy of Music and Theatre in Hamburg, where he attended master classes with Christa Ludwig and Hermann Prey. Especially as a concert and oratorio artist Jörg Dürmüller has gained a particularly good reputation, for example as the Evangelist in the Passions of J. S. Bach. This has taken him to most of the major concert halls and festivals at home and abroad, including the Royal Albert Hall London (BBC Proms), Auditorio Nacional de España Madrid, Santa Cecilia Rome, Musikverein Vienna, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris, Théâtre du Châtelet Paris, Summer Festival Tokyo, and Bach-Fest Leipzig. Before his solo career, Jörg Dürmüller was a member of the ensemble of the Volksoper in Vienna, singing Tamino in the Magic Flute, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola, and other roles. He was also a guest tenor at the opera houses of Hamburg, Montpellier, Leipzig, Cologne, Seville, Strasbourg, and at the Teatro Real in Madrid, where he made his debut as Walther von der Vogelweide in Tannhäuser, directed by Werner Herzog. In 2008 he appears as Narraboth (Salome) at the Teatro Regio di Torino. The CD of Franz von Suppé’s Die schöne Galathée under Bruno Weil with Jörg Dürmüller in the lead role of Pygmalion was awarded the Prize of the German Record Critics. He’s especially looking forward to performing Messiah with the Philharmonic, saying, “The New York Philharmonic is, after all, one of the best in the world. That’s why I’m all the more excited to sing Messiah here—and at Christmas time yet!” It’s a work he is very fond of, having sung it countless times. “In fact it was one of the first works I sang publicly as a student, and one that has accompanied me regularly as a singer. It isn’t just the Hallelujah Chorus that thrills me again and again, but the incredible mixture of Baroque music and the deeply felt emotions that already point the way to Romantic music that make this oratorio incomparable. And it is of course also the choruses and the orchestral music that make me such an enthusiastic listener, even when I’m not sitting in the audience.
“Jörg Dürmüller, one of the stars of the ancient-music-scene: splendid technique and articulation, marvelously pure high pitch—a brilliant performance of the first order.” (Review published by the Bavarian State Opera Munich, 2004)
DETLEF ROTH, baritone
Born in Freudenstadt, Germany, baritone Detlef Roth studied voice at the Stuttgart Musikhochschule. He has appeared in operas by Wagner, including Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, in addition to Mozart’s The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro at the Salzburg Easter Festival, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Bastille in Paris. Last summer he gave his highly acclaimed Bayreuth Festival debut as Amfortas in Wagner’s Parsifal conducted by Daniele Gatti. As a concert singer, Mr. Roth has performed with major orchestras all over Europe. Specialties of his repertoire include Mendelssohn (Elijah, Paulus, and Walpurgisnacht), Mahler, Orff’s Carmina burana, Brahms’s A German Requiem, as well as the Passions by J.S. Bach. Important conductors in his career include Riccardo Chailly, Valery Gergiev, Marek Janowski, Lorin Maazel, Kent Nagano, Simon Rattle, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Jeffrey Tate. In 2003 Mr. Roth recorded a prize winning CD of unknown Schubert Lieder with Ulrich Eisenlohr (Naxos). Detlef Roth resides in Freudenstadt, Germany, and in Florida. These concerts mark his debut with the New York Philharmonic.
About the Ticket Supplier: New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic is by far the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. Founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians led by American-born Ureli Corelli Hill, the Orchestra currently plays some 180 concerts a year. On December 18, 2004, the Philharmonic gave its 14,000th concert—a milestone unmatched by any other orchestra in the world.
Since 1917 the Philharmonic has recorded nearly 2,000 albums; more than 500 recordings are currently available. In February 2003, the Orchestra was honored by The Recording Academy with a Trustees Award in recognition of its outstanding contributions to the industry and American culture. Members of the Philharmonic also performed on the 45th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, televised internationally from New York’s Madison Square Garden — the first time that a major symphony orchestra had performed live on the Grammy Awards.