Messiah
George Frideric Handel
BA 4012-73

Welcome to the Pretoria Bach Choirʼs 2016 performance of G.F. Handelʼs Messiah! It has become a tradition for the choir to perform this work, as is true for so many other choirs across the world. It has been 270 years since the Messiah was first performed, and yet it remains, possibly the most performed of any large choral work.

The question arises - why is this oratorio so popular? Is it the fascinating history
or the majesty of the music? Perhaps a combination of both:


Did you know that tickets to the premiere also gave free access to the rehearsal? This generated so much interest that advertisements for the new oratorio requested that Ladies attend “without hoops” and that “Gentlemen are desired to come without their swords” so that more people could be accommodated! The tickets were half a guinea to admit “either one Gentleman, or Two Ladies”; with inflation they would be approximately 105 GBP or R1730 today!

Handel set to work on the Messiah in August 1741, and in 21 days, plus 3 days for orchestration, the entire oratorio was finished. Handel later said that while writing the Hallelujah Chorus he had a spiritual experience “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself. Whether I was in the body or out of my body
when I wrote it, I know not” 

At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters “SDG"—Soli Deo Gloria,
"To God alone the glory".
This inscription has encouraged the belief in the story that Handel wrote the music in a fervour of divine inspiration in which, as he wrote the "Hallelujah" chorus, "he saw all heaven before him”

There is no definitive version of the Messiah. Handel rewrote parts of the oratorio to better meet the abilities of soloists and the available instruments with each of the original 13 performances. Mozart also re-orchestrated the Messiah in 1789 in an attempt to give it a more modern sound by Classical orchestra standards. He humbly wrote than any alterations he made should not be seen as an effort at improvement.

The 'Hallelujah' Chorus is one of the most famous pieces of Baroque choral music, and is by far the most widely-known section of the Messiah. One of the often repeated legends about the Messiah tells the story of King George II who was so moved by the “Hallelujah” chorus during the London premiere of the Messiah that he rose to his feet. This of course then caused everyone in attendance to follow suit as not to be sitting when the king stood.

Tonight we will attempt to be true to Handelʼs original vision of the Messiah. We have once again included two Baroque trumpets into our orchestra. Baroque trumpets have a much rounder, less ‘brassyʼ sound than the trumpets we are used to today and are more difficult to play due to the fact that they have no valves. BUT, the sound achieved by these trumpets are much closer to the original orchestra used in the Messiah debut.

We hope you enjoy the Messiah today and will leave it up to you to decide just why this oratorio is so special and well loved!    

Programme

 Part 1   Part 2 (continued)
1. Sinfony    28. He trusted in God that he would deliver him
2. Comfort ye my people   29. Thy rebuke hath broken his heart
3. Ev'ry valley shall be exalted   30. Behold and see if there be any sorrow
4. And the glory of the Lord   31. He was cut off
5. Thus saith the Lord of hosts   32. But thou didst not leave his soul in hell
6. But who may abide the day of His coming   33. Lift up your heads, O ye gates
7. And he shall purify the sons of Levi   34. Unto which of the angels
8. Behold, a virgin shall conceive   35. Let all the angels of God worship Him
9. O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion
  36. Thou art gone up on high
10. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
  37. The Lord gave the word
11. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light
  38. How beautiful are the feet
12. For unto us a child is born
  39. Their sound is gone out
13. Pifa
  40. How beautiful are the feet of them that preach
14a. There were shepherds abiding in the fields
  41. Their sound is gone out
14b. And lo, the angel of the Lord
  42. Why do the nations so furiously rage together
15. And the angel said unto them
  43. Let us break their bonds asunder
16. And suddenly there was with the angel
  44. He that dwelleth in heaven 
17. Glory to God in the highest
  45. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron
18. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion
  46. Hallelujah
19. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened
 
20. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd
   Part 3
21. His yoke is easy
  47. I know that my Redeemer liveth

  48. Since by man came death
 Part 2   49. Behold, I tell you a mystery
22. Behold the Lamb of God   50. The trumpet shall sound
23. He was despised and rejected of men   51. Then shall be brought to pass
24. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows   52. O death, where is thy sting
25. And with his stripes we are healed   53. But thanks be to God
 26. All we like sheep have gone astray   54. If God be for us, who can be against us
27. All they that see him laugh him to scorn   55. Worthy is the Lamb

  Amen

Conductor

Gerben Grooten

Soloists  Orchestra
Soprano Ilse Coetzee Concert Master Jacques Fourie
Tenor Chris Mostert Violin I

Camelia Onea

Counter Tenor Jonathan Watkins    Viara Markova
Bass Hendre van Zyl    Natali Schutte
    Violin II

Lize Schaap

 Accompanist  Susan Steenkamp-Swanepoel    Mariette Malherbe
       Song Ha Choi
       Carin Jansen van Vuuren
    Viola  Elmarie van den Vyfer
       Valerie Hohls
    Oboe I

Lesley Stansell

    Oboe II  Clorinda Warrens
    Trumpet I

Philip Cox

    Trumpet II Braam van Tonder
    Harpsicord

John Reid-Coulter

    Cello Katia Sokolova
      Maren du Plessis
    Double Bass

Leanse Pottas

    Bassoon

Ester Watkinson

    Organ Johan Swanepoel
    Timpani Loandi Richter
Sopranos Altos Tenors Basses
Marijke Anderson Marike Brits Wim Bronkhorst Anton Arendse
Frideborg Bammel Henna Delen Ian Butler Hanno den Boer
Lynette Boerrigter Gerda du Toit Ruan Fraser-Vorstman Chris Hershensohn
Eleanor Burton Marianne Haag Werner Fraser-Vorstman Pieter Koelewyn
Tineke Coetzee Fernanda Jones Lammie Marx Barry Meijer
Annette Dreyer Dudu Nxele Edwin Mitas Estimé Mukandila
Thia du Plooy Vreda Pieterse Sphesihle Mthana Franck Muteba
Gretha-Marié Du Preez Adry Stolk Heinrich Schutte Ferdie Preller
Merilyn Golding Elsa Van der Watt Jacques Steenekamp Johan van de Wetering
Rosemary Gray Petro van Niekerk Corné Theron
Ronelle Grobler Dirk Theron
Petro Heyns-Nel Phillip Venter
Val Nolte
Riana Nöthling
Caren Potgieter
Malene Schulze
Chantelle Van der Merwe
Barbara Venter
Renate Weichelt

REVIEWS



22 November 2016

Grootse werk gestand gedoen

In 1824 skryf Beethoven: “Handel is die meester van ons almal... Ek sou my hoof ontbloot het en voor sy graf kniel.”

Sondagmiddag se uitvoering van sy Messiah deur die Pretoria Bach-koor en ’n spesiaal uitgesoekte orkes onder leiding van Gerben Grooten, het die grootsheid van die werk kragdadig tuisgebring. Die soliste, Ilse Coetzee (sopraan), Jonathan Watkins (kontratenoor), Chris Mostert (tenoor) en Hendre van Zyl (bas) se kollektiewe aandeel was, hoewel soms wisselvallig, eweneens beduidend.

Grooten se leiding as geheel is gekenmerk deur talle positiewe elemente wat oorkoepelend in die volgende paar opmerkings saamgevat kan word: By hom was die byna pastorale ligtheid wat hy bewerkstellig met sy wakker en helder musiserende orkes opvallend.

Die donkerder bladsye van die partituur soos die verhewe “He was despised”, sny by hom nog nie heeltemal regdeur die siel nie, maar ’n ander karaktertrek bly resoneer: Dit was ontroerend introspektief.

Sedert Grooten die leisels van die Pretoria Bach-koor al ’n hele klompie jare gelede oorgeneem het, is daar aan ouer stemme gesnoei. Die koor het ook wat getalle betref verslank. Dit het die wakkerheid van die koorlede verskerp.

Dié eienskappe was reeds vroeg in die uitvoering opvallend, maar die werklike toets het vanselfsprekend sy verskyning gemaak met die aanhef van die beroemde “Halleluja”-koor. Hier is deurgaans ’n subtiele spel rondom dinamiek aangewend pleks daarvan om eenvlakkig, tomeloos en op ’n bulderende wyse vreugdevol te wees.

Wat die soliste betref, het elkeen by tye bo sy of haar vermoëns uitgestyg. Mostert het met die resitatief “Comfort ye” en die daaropvolgende aria “Ev’ry valley” nog ietwat met suiwer intonasie geworstel, maar in die res van die werk konstant so ’n hoë vlak van vokale uitdrukkingskrag behaal, dat dit hom vergewe word.

Me. Coetzee se helder, jeugdig en omvangryke sopraanstem met slegs ’n ligte vibrato is ideal vir Handel.

Sy het al die tegniese uitdagings met musikale integriteit oorkom en heelwat gevoelswaarde in haar teksbehandeling deurgevoer. ’n Geringe indruk van moegheid het haar aandeel in die derde deel effens bemoeilik.

Watkins se kontratenoor besit ’n natuurlike klank en hy is deeglik in die Barokprinsipes geskool. Sy ietwat sporadiese maar steeds perfek geplaaste ornamentasies was hoogtepunte in sy voordrag. In die aria “Thou art gone up on high” was dit duidelik dat Handel nie juis toegeeflik was met pouses waarin die sanger kan asemhaal nie!

Van Zyl se basresitatiewe en -arias is versigtig benader en het wat projeksie betref nie altyd heeltemal die effek oorgedra wat Charles Jennens met sy dramatieser tekste vir die basstem beoog het nie.

Handel se Messiah bly onskendbaar groots. Die driedelige slotkoor illustreer dit. Dit is ’n wonderwerk van musikale argitektuur.

- Paul Boekkooi

 

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Backstage

Photos from backstage at the Messiah performance

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Performance

Photos of the Messiah Perrformance

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