The morning after the night before

April 3, 2010

The Amen needed a blessing form the Almighty at one point. Then the tenors, who needed more than one Amen to save them, pulled out all the stops and rose to a high C continuing as if nothing had happened.

This was last night, in a dark medieval church, in the former capital of Finland, Turku in Finnish and still Åbo in Swedish. Yes, it was the evening of Good Friday and yes most Catholics of the Roman persuasion do not engage in the joyful recreation of music-making on this singular day in the Christian Church calender. But there we have it. I live in a Protestant country where the holiness of the time includes a choir, an orchestra, a handful of soloists from different corners of Europe, and a conductor of renown, huddled together to present one of the human species most inspiring musical masterworks.

The Messiah is a monumental and masterful contrapuntal harmony musical extravaganza by the master of this musical art form – George Frideric Händel.
It certainly brought the Paschal message home.

Some members of the audience (in fact more than a few) said how it had brought them to the brink of tears. Indeed it was powerful stuff: Darkness is overcome by a Great Light; Death looses its sting; Our time is but a shadow of the one to come.  All this thanks to the humble text cobbled together from the Bible by Charles Jennens and enjoined to the august music of Händel.

Turku Philharmonic Press Release

Additional Notes:
April 6 2010 – on Händel’s Messiahs peformed at the St Henry’s Cathedral in Turku/Åbo Finland Good Friday, April 2-2010 – 18:00 to 21:00 (Händel died on Good Friday April 14-1759)

I have now listened to the recorded concert on a rather poor camera. Yet in spite of the poor quality of the sound, the distinct high quality of all the artists involved came through with clarity and power. Each and every one of the soloists (see Press Release) were in distinctly excellent voice. Oddly, when I spoke  audience members (quite a few as it turns out) after the concert each seemed to have a favourite soloist.

No one soloist was singled out as being a head above the rest though it is true that Lukas Jakobski is a very very tall basso profundo. Wife kept on about what a beautiful voice, and was that not a beautiful voice, gawd he sang beautifully, oh what a voice, his voice (I think she almost swooned at this point). Gawd I wish I was a basso.

Martin Vanberg (tenor) was the first soloist. I was completely enthralled by his facile mastery of the material – his voice was light and playfully in control.

Maija Skille (mezzo soprano) and Susanne Rydén (soprano) were in superb voice. I did hear afterwards – standing behind the church’s massive pillars – that some of the men were indeed gaga-in-love with these two magnificent singers. I understand them perfectly well.

The orchestra, although a collection of virtuosi, played with feeling and precision. The conducting was masterfully guided by Dirigent Mark Tatlow. The conductor is a central figure in any of these projects. He is the jongleur who keeps all the balls in the air – Mark Tatlow not only kept the balls in the air but he kept adding balls along the way. Blimey!

The choir too was on the mark. Mostly. Three hours standing, itching and unable to scratch the offending spot,  screaming silently for a sit down, tripping over a note or two or three, jabbing from those behind you to keep you on the right page … it went well, I think. The problem for me was that suffered by any chorist: I only heard my own singular voice and not those nearest me. Therefore I was obliged to read the blinking notes and do my best to recall what had had been drummed into us by Timo Lehtovaara (the Dirigent of the Chorus Cathedralis Åboensis). Yes, I did hear the din of my fellow choristers but like any chorister in the universe I only heard what I thought were off-key sounds. Or was that me?  (The choir sang no false notes, I should hastily add) The sounds I did not want to hear came through too powerfully – especially the sopranos. However, that is the nature of a choir – the sopranos always get heard, no matter how deaf one might be. Choral singing is not about any one person but we all together aiming for the perfect note. Sum summarum: darn brilliant! Hearty congratulations to all!

Because of copyright rules the concert material is not available to the public. Sorry.

%d bloggers like this: