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Friday, June 14, 2024

Music review: Handel’s Messiah at its finest

The Orpheum was packed on December 8 with concertgoers intent on celebrating the Christmas season as Early Music Vancouver presented Handel's Messiah, performed by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Vancouver Chamber Choir.

The Orpheum was packed on December 8 with concertgoers intent on celebrating the Christmas season as Early Music Vancouver (EMV) presented Handel’s Messiah, performed by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Vancouver Chamber Choir.

They were not disappointed as Alexander Weimann led this fastidiously honed concert while the artistic director of the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Kari Turunen, sang alongside his choir members. Their sound was so crisp, elegant, pure, and flowed so seamlessly that it could not be bettered.

The four soloists also shone. Most brilliant was the voice of soprano Sherezade Panthaki. Her eloquent tone and delicious, soaring high notes never failed to impress the spellbound audience.

Tenor Nicholas Scott’s experience in the field of early music was also evident, as was his acting ability. He and Panthaki brought substance to their roles with thought processes that informed their interpretations, connection with the audience, and virtuosity.

That’s not to minimize the contributions of Early Music Vancouver’s 2021 artist-in-residence Jonathon Adams (bass) and alto Allyson McHardy, who also enthralled the audience.

This was such a well-blended performance of early instruments, from a medley of violas da gamba to a solitary trumpet boasting fewer valves than its modern counterpart, that it is unjust to single out any one contributor. However, kudos must go to Weimann for his versatile precision, focus and energy, often playing harpsichord with his left hand while conducting with his right. His right hand always knew what his left was doing.

For those who might wish to hear in context the musical gems embedded in this masterpiece by George Frederick Handel, including For Unto Us a Child is Born, The Hallelujah Chorus, and I Know that My Redeemer Liveth, there could be no higher recommendation than this orchestral and choral tour de force. Let’s hope for its return next Christmas.

While there are no further performances of this concert, the Vancouver Chamber Choir will perform Christmas by Candlelight on December 22, and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra will perform with countertenor Reginald Mobley in The Luminous Hour on January 12, 2024.

In addition, Alexander Weimann is featured on the organ on January 13, 2024, in A Prayer for Peace, and Elinor Frey will play Bach Cello Suites on January 14, 2024.

Correction (14 December 2023): This article was updated to identify Jonathon Adams as Early Music Vancouver’s 2021 artist-in-residence.

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