There’s much to like in this year’s unfussy TSO Messiah. It’s not bloated. For most of the piece conductor Johannes Debus deploys around thirty strings, chamber organ, harpsichord, oboes and bassoon. Trumpets and timpani are added for the grand moments later in the piece. He even manages to get quite a delicate sound out of the largish (100+) Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. The delicacy is a recurrent thread. That and a really bouncy sense of rhythm. One could dance to Debus’ Handel.
And, joy unbounded this being Roy Thomson Hall, every word from the excellent quartet of soloists was clearly audible. And a fine quartet they are. And a well contrasted one. Claire de Sevigné’s bright tone and impeccable coloratura setting off nicely the richer, darker colours of Allyson McHardy who took all the alto numbers. Andrew Haji’s floaty, beautiful tenor sounded just right from Comfort Ye to the very end and Tyler Duncan’s sinewy baritone had both elegance and heft. Perhaps the consistent elegance made the most emotional numbers lack the ultimate in impact. The rough places made plain? Maybe not. Certainly highlights like I know that my redeemer liveth were properly highlights.
There were cuts. The whole piece came in at two and a quarter hours including the interval but only He gave his back to the smiters and the following chorus seemed odd choices to snip. So there it is. The best TSO Messiah in some time for my money and well worth seeing.
Photo credits: Jag Gundu