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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Music review: Handel: Hallelujah & Trumpets! was a shining example of excellent ensemble musicianship

Almost everyone, even the audience, enjoyed a moment of glory at Early Music Vancouver’s latest production, Handel: Hallelujah & Trumpets! presented by the Ensemble Caprice (instrumental) and Ensemble ArtChoral (vocal) under the direction of Matthias Maute.

Maute began the March 24th concert at the Chan Centre by singling out audience members named Anne and dedicating an Early 2020s version of Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne: Eternal Source of Light Divine to them. He said Queen Anne was apparently absent when the piece was first played for her in the Early 1700s, so this was their chance to shine royally. The rest of the audience also rose to the occasion when Maute invited them to sing the final “Hallelujah” of Handel’s famous Hallelujah Chorus, which aptly closed the concert.

Maute’s skill, wit and charm lit up Sunday’s matinee with his tongue-in-cheek introductions and light-hearted banter, not to mention his fine musicianship. He even played flute while conducting at one point.

Among the other musicians who shone were Roman Golovanov and Félix Gauthier, who blew their own trumpets after a drum solo by timpanist Philip Hornsey in an unscripted improvisation. First violinist Tanya LaPerrière’s virtuosity was on full display in more than one solo passage, and Maute went on to lead the Concerto for Recorder and Flute in e minor written by Handel’s close friend Telemann who sent the four movements, Largo, Allegro, Largo and Presto, as a gift in response to Handel’s bouquets of English roses; so the story goes, according to Maute. He played recorder with Sophie Larivière on flute while the rest of Ensemble Caprice kept up the pace until all ended in a surprise, quiet moment of grace.

But the brightest stars were the four soloists in the Ensemble ArtChoral. Countertenor Ian Sabourin showed off his extensive vocal range in praise of Handel’s beloved plane tree (Ombra mai fu from Serse). He was followed by Matthew Li, giving a brilliant bass rendition of Handel’s I rage, I melt, I burn from Acis and Galatea with just the right amount of melodramatic effect to delight the crowd, including a desperate embrace of Maute while he conducted. Then Kerry Bursey’s clear tenor voice haunted the auditorium from the balcony above the orchestra and was answered by soprano Janelle Lucyk in the familiar moving strains of Lascia ch’io piange from Rinaldo.

Despite such individual moments of glory, Handel: Hallelujah & Trumpets! was a shining example of excellent ensemble musicianship.

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