BBC Music Magazine - - Choral & Song Reviews -

Mes­siah San­drine Piau, Kather­ine Wat­son (so­prano), Anthea Pi­chan­ick (con­tralto), Ru­pert Charlesworth (tenor), An­dreas Wolf (bass-bari­tone); Le Con­cert Spir­ituel/hervé Ni­quet Al­pha AL­PHA 362 116:22 mins (2 discs) Of all the var­i­ous authen­tic edi­tions of Mes­siah, Hervé Ni­quet chooses, as did Christo­pher Hog­wood in 1979, Han­del’s 1754 ver­sion per­formed at the Foundling Hos­pi­tal. That score uses five soloists, in­clud­ing a sec­ond so­prano. The two top voices here – San­drine Piau and Kather­ine Wat­son – are well matched, with Anthea Pi­chan­ick the even, steady con­tralto and Ru­pert Charlesworth the clean, fresh-toned tenor. An­dreas Wolf ’s bass-bari­tone of­fers a lightvoiced ap­proach, and can cer­tainly find his way around the lit­tle notes.

Ni­quet’s Le Con­cert Spir­ituel forces are some­what dif­fer­ent in size to those Han­del had to hand on this oc­ca­sion. Han­del’s orches­tra was larger than Ni­quet’s to­tal of 29 (15 vi­o­lins to Ni­quet’s 10, for in­stance), but the 27 voices in the mod­ern choir Han­del ap­par­ently had only 19, in­clud­ing six tre­bles.

Ni­quet’s brisk ap­proach can at times seem hasty: he jus­ti­fies this in the Pas­toral Sym­phony, say­ing that the piece rep­re­sents the shep­herds ‘who ar­rive and are daz­zled by the sight of the an­gel … it makes quite an im­pact!’; whether it makes quite the im­pact one wants is another mat­ter. The cho­rus ‘Surely He hath borne our griefs’ is also ex­tremely fast, but ‘Hal­lelu­jah’ ben­e­fits from the con­duc­tor’s spritely read­ing.

While Ni­quet’s orches­tra is rather rough textured, his choir is cer­tainly lithe and ath­letic; but some of the text gets lost in the over-res­o­nant church acous­tic. Ge­orge Hall


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