20 December 2005
Under conductor James Grossmith, the singers gave a spirited and highly-disciplined account of Handel's Messiah. The florid challenges that Handel continually sets the chorus were brilliantly met, often at very fast speeds.
However the experiment of mixing the chorus up – the 12 men interspersed among the 21 women, was only partly successful, detracting from Handel’s contrapuntal skill in such choruses as Let us break their bonds asunder.
No praise can be too high for the two female soloists, Emma Louise Harper (soprano) and Anne-Marie Kerr (alto), who sang with great beauty of tone. Tenor Dominic Peckham and bass James Johnson also gave sterling performances in their demanding arias.
The orchestra – just 15 young players – performed with commitment and skill. I did find many of the fashionable fast tempi for the largo and larghetto sections detracted from the pathos of the more reflective parts, but these reservations apart, it was a splendid evening of singing and playing.