REVIEW: Musica Sacra brings purity, perfection to Handel’s ‘Messiah’

NEW YORK — At its annual celebration of the holiday season, Musica Sacra put on a fine display of choral and musical delight at Carnegie Hall. On Thursday, Dec. 21, New York City’s beloved chorus performed a stellar rendition of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, never missing a beat and filling the storied space with wondrous and recognizable music.

Credit must be given to Kent Tritle, music director of Musica Sacra and conductor for the evening. He led the chorus, four soloists and an appropriately sized orchestra in a performance that ran nearly three hours.

Handel’s famous choruses were present and accounted for, including “Hallelujah,” “For unto a child is born,” “Glory to God in the highest” and “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

The soloists consisted of soprano Kathryn Lewek, mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey, tenor Joshua Blue and bass Adam Lau. Each of them added energy and power to the evening’s arias and recitatives. Lewek’s voice was transcendent, reaching registers that helped her sound emanate from Carnegie Hall’s voluminous stage. Blue also stood out, providing a crisp tenor that matched power with purpose.

There are many Messiahs around the city this time of year. Musica Sacra has to compete with New York Philharmonic and so many others vying for the attention and disposable income of local classical music lovers. It’s safe to say that Musica Sacra’s pure, skilled version should be at the top of anyone’s list. Tritle, the soloists, instrumentalists and chorus never took shortcuts with the material, presenting Handel’s masterpiece in its entirety and with attendant respect.

It does seem to make a difference when a choral company presents a performance of Messiah — rather than an orchestra that hires an outside choral company. At its heart, this piece lives and dies according to its famous choral sections. The soloist work is challenging and often produces admirable results, but the chorus sections — especially that ovation-inducing “Hallelujah” — are what elevate Handel’s creation to a heavenly height. It’s so satisfying to have a choral piece older than the United States still add so much joy and musical appreciation during a crowded Christmas season.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Click here for more information on Musica Sacra.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

One thought on “REVIEW: Musica Sacra brings purity, perfection to Handel’s ‘Messiah’

  • December 28, 2017 at 10:14 am
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    I was at the performance, and have attended Musica Sacra Messiah each year for a decade. This was an inferior performance. Except for Ms. Lewek, the soloists were weak, particularly the Mezzo. The pacing by Mr. Tritle was erratic—in “Rejoice greatly” Ms. Lewek could not sing rapidly enough to keep pace. Even the enunciation by the chorus was substandard. In general, the production seemed inadequately rehearsed—confirming rumors that the conductor has been way over-committed.

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