Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Brandenburg Choir, under the direction of artistic director Paul Dyer AO, along with guest singers Lucia Martin-Carton, Nicholas Spanos, Kyle Bielfield and David Greco, will present for the first time, the Baroque music era masterpiece The Messiah by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) to commence their program for 2017.
Held in Sydney and Melbourne from February 22 to Saturday March 4, an ode to love The Messiah is a stunning sacred work, which crosses secular boundaries. Considered today as it was then a work of musical genius: the first part prophesizes the birth of Jesus Christ; the second exalts his sacrifice for humankind; and the final section heralds his Resurrection. The text by Charles Jennens came from the King James Bible, and The Book of Common Prayer
The Messiah is essentially a great folk drama expressed in music, about a local hero who received meaning for the fate that awaited him and, as provided by the masses.
Infused with wondrous beauty in a setting that honours a continuing tradition of choral music, plus the added splendour of the secular pomp and ceremony of Handel’s day, The Messiah is an inexhaustible treasure of lyric expression.
It taps into all our different temperaments, allowing everyone’s emotions to run free. Its chief message is one of hope, especially for all Christians however humble, whose faith is sufficient. Full of great moments, my favourite aria would be “I know that my redeemer liveth’, which has bold and harmonic forms that are both simple and direct.
The soloists represent a mini-league of nations including Spanish soprano Lucía Martín-Cartón, a bright new shining star in the early musical firmament.
Winner of the Renata Tebaldi International Voice Competition, Lucia previously toured Australia in 2015 as a guest artist with Les Arts Florissant, a successful ensemble of singers and instrumentalists specialising in performing music of the Baroque (1600 – 1750)
Greek born countertenor Nicholas Spanos who lives in Vienna Austria, has won Best Young Artist of the Year in Greece and has recorded the title role of Handel’s Tamerlano (2006), winning the prestigious ECHO Klassik Award. In 2014 he was the first to revive the role of Ruggiero in Ristori’s “Le Fate” with Ensemble Alraune, a DVD production.
Sydney-based American tenor Kyle Bielfield is a Masters graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. He has performed in the USA and Canada in opera and recorded an album of music by American composers for the Delos label. ‘His career straddles classical and pop/electronic music and he is signed to Sony Music Australia under his pop alter ego and stage name Bielfield’.
Australian baritone David Greco graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague in The Netherlands, returning to Sydney recently after eight years study overseas and working in Europe. He has enjoyed a long association with the Brandenburg as a soloist and member of the Brandenburg Choir.
According to one of the eighteenth centuries most revered and influential German composers a crucial figure in the transition between the classical and romantic eras in western art music Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Handel had been the ‘greatest composer that ever lived.
Georg Friedrich Händel [1685-1759], born at Halle in Prussia, became Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover. In 1710 he visited London for the first time, later settling there in 1712 where his name over the centuries became synonymous with his best-known work, The Messiah, which was set from a compilation of scripture by Charles Jennens.
Following the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 to the throne of England the public rejoiced to hear sacred and secular music concerts again on a grand scale.
The term a “concert” brought musicians performing together and was not strictly applicable to a solo performance.
The first recorded series of concerts were organised by English violinist John Bannister in his house in Whitefriars in 1672, and some six years later, Thomas Britton arranged a series of Clerkenwell concerts.
The re-founding of the Chapels Royal also assisted in bringing music of high quality before the public in Masques and Ceremonial Odes for state occasions.
Down the years Handel Commemorations were held in Westminster Abbey from 1784-87 and in 1791 and 1834. They were monster celebrations warmly supported by royalty to raise money to benefit what was to become the Royal Society for Musicians.
Crystal Palace Handel Festivals, began in 1857, and were also held somewhat irregularly, then triennially until 1926
Great emotional impact and uplifting messages are part and parcel of Handel’s legacy of musical works. None more so than his stunning oratorio The Messiah, which was originally an Easter offering first performed in Dublin in 1742. For many amateur choirs the work is the heart of their repertoire and performing it, the high point of the musical year.
Historically The Messiah opening night was held in Ireland because Handel had been disappointed by criticism of his works the previous season and he wanted to create a work that he knew would be well received, before he took it to London.
At the time Dublin was an ever expanding prosperous city, eager to show the bigger cities how sophisticated it had become. Holding such a successful event was good for the morale of city officials and the local economy, the staging of such a major cultural event allowed the wealthy elite to lend their support.
Men were asked not to wear their swords and the women were asked by management to wear dresses “without Hoops…” in order to make “… room for more company”.
Handel was to re-use the Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah in his benefit concert for the Foundling Hospital at Bloomsbury built by the philanthropic works of Thomas Coram who was granted a royal charter in 1739 by George II to establish a charity to care for the babies usually abandoned on doorsteps and rubbish heaps by desperate mothers, usually young and unmarried, who had nowhere else to turn.
“Blessed are they that considered the poor and needy” was the text adapted from Psalm 41, and he ended with the Hallelujah Chorus.
Such was its success the following year Handel was able to present his The Messiah to wealthy supporters of the history, enabling it to enter musical history.
It was eighteenth century musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, who late in the century in 1789 also revised and revived the earlier success of George Frideric Handel’s masterwork The Messiah.
We have a lot to thank him for. Ever since new generations of music lovers have continued to enjoy the drama, beauty and glory of this extraordinary work.
It was while he was in England in 1791 that Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn I1732-1809) first heard Handel’s Messiah, where he reputedly wept stating “Handel was “the master of us all.”
It is said to have also inspired his interest in writing his oratorio The Creation to a libretto originally in English.
By the early nineteenth century, performances of The Messiah had become part of the Yuletide tradition in the United States as well as in Britain.
During the twentieth century in churches and cathedrals all over the Christian world while the Hallelujah Chorus was often sung at Christmas, Easter was the time for the whole oratorio to be performed. For the Hallelujah Chorus, patrons would always stand in respect.
Mozart confessed himself humble in the face of Handel’s genius. “Handel knows better than any of us what will make an effect,” Mozart said. “When he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt.”
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
George Frideric Handel Composer
Paul Dyer AO conductor & artistic director
Lucia Martin-Carton (Spain) soprano
Nicholas Spanos (Greece) alto
Kyle Bielfield (USA/Australia) tenor
David Greco (Australia) bass
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra