I know that my redeemer liveth, are the words that lead into one of the simplest and most compelling of all the movements in the timeless emotive musical masterpiece by composer Georg Frideric Handel (1685-1759), his much lauded Hallelujah Chorus, from the English language oratorio, The Messiah. It is a sacred work full of ceremony, splendour and excitement, a union of poetical and musical creative ability not often accomplished.
Music creates camaraderie at major festivals and provides an atmosphere wherein calm can prevail in a very busy world. In Australia, as indeed it is in many other places around the world, the singing of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus is integral to the Xmas festive season.
Easter is the time they sing it in church, because it covers musically Jesus’s journey in life from the annunciation of the shepherds when he was born in Bethlehem until his resurrection from the dead.
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 since, has become synonymous with this his best-known work, which was set from a compilation of scripture by Charles Jennens.
Festive means a joyous, merry, a feast and that’s just what Handel provided in his famous oratorio dating from 1741. We could call the eighteenth century not only the age of enlightenment, but also the age for putting the magic into music, as indeed will all those singers performing The Messiah with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th December 2013 in the newly renovated Hamer Hall.
Acclaimed Italian conductor Ottavio Dantone, who has been the Music Director of the Accademia Bizantina in Ravenna since 1996, will guide the magnificent voices and fine musicians.
Dantone has a fine reputation as a ‘Handel’ conductor, making his La Scala debut in 2005 conducting Handel’s great opera Rinaldo.
An exceedingly fine cast of singers will be able to give this work the sort of emotional intensity and sublime expression it needs to ensure rapturous applause and praise.
Singing their hearts out will be Australian born Soprano Sara Macliver, who is one of the leading exponents of the repertoire of the Baroque period in Australia and has a voice, described as having ‘silvery beauty’.
Australian born Countertenor, David Hansen (pictured) whose musical gifts and ingenuity have given him an international musical niche path to follow, will lend his considerable sensitivity and his pure toned voice to ensure their sweet sounds reach the angels in heaven
Hansen will also perform the lead role in Cavalli’s Giasone for the Pinchgut Opera in Sydney in early December.
Music Educator and Tenor Paul McMahon accepted a Churchill Fellowship in 2002 to study the Baroque repertoire at The Hague in the Netherlands.
He is an experienced studio and ensemble teacher of voice as well as lecturer in music history and historically informed performance at the Australian National University at Canberra.
Peter McCallum of the SMH noted in a review that McMahon has a ’resonant eloquence with words and glowing, rounded pure sound’
He and Matthew Brook, one of England’s most experienced leading Bass-Baritone’s, will be sure to be a fine anchor lending both grandeur and gravitas to the performance. Brook has a worldwide reputation for his interpretation of music by Handel and J.S. Bach.
Over the centuries the instruments that have been played and the voices that have either sung, or narrated to music, have been a powerful force affecting the lives of many people
Without doubt the eighteenth century was an expansive time, the musical writers all practicing musicians, who established a ‘musical physiognomy of harmony according to the laws of nature’, which revealed itself in marvellous music of harmonic excellence that everyone enjoyed.
Being well versed in the history, the styles, the aesthetics and philosophy of music, as well as the art of composition aided their creative production. This ensured that their music was, and would remain, both rich and rewarding for people from many different cultures and all backgrounds.
The Messiah is a sacred work that crosses secular boundaries. It taps into all our different temperaments, allowing everyone’s emotions to run free.
As the eighteenth century was a time for revolution and romantics, the music has both connotations, especially for those dreaming of a Handel Heaven.
The Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah made such an impression on England’s King George 1 when he first heard it performed he rose to his feet in genuine admiration and in response to both its drama and beauty.
The Messiah concert for The Queensland Symphony Orchestra to be held on Saturday 7th December in QPAC Concert Hall, is also an event people in Brisbane look forward to attending annually.
In 2013 the guest conductor will also be Ottavio Dantone, with soprano Sara Macliver, tenor Paul McMahon, counter-tenor Tobias Cole, bass Matthew Brook and the Canticum Chamber Choir directed by Emily Cox.
At Sydney the Sydney Philharmonia Choir will present their performance at the Sydney Opera House from 12 – 15th December, while in Perth Western Australia the Symphonic Chorus will present their version in the Perth Concert Hall on 21st December.
In South Australia there is a stunning cast of international soloists performing with the Adelaide Chamber Singers and the ASO, which will be conducted by a young English Baroque specialist Matthew Halls in the magnificent Adelaide Town Hall on 27th and 28th November.
It was no less than the 18th century musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, who late in the century revised and revived the earlier success of George Frideric Handel’s masterwork The Messiah.
We certainly have a great deal to thank him for. He produced no doubt a heartwarming performance of this unique masterpiece of the Baroque, one many will continue to go on enjoying, both at Xmas and Easter in the years to come.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2013
Watch a Flash Mob from the Opera Company of Philadelphia singing the Hallelujah Chorus in Macy’s New York