Review: Handel’s Messiah

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HandelAnyone strolling past Cape Town City Hall on Easter Sunday may well have stopped in their tracks and looked skywards to ascertain the source of the heavenly music.  The reason: A spectacular, sold out performance of Handel’s famous Messiah by the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and soloists Elizabeth du Toit (soprano), Elizabeth Frandsen (mezzo soprano), Arthur Swan (tenor) and George Stevens (baritone), conducted by Richard Haigh.

Where the instrumental overture of the much-loved three-part oratorio saw members of the audience still looking around and shuffling to get comfortable – as if preparing themselves for what was to come – as soon as the sung narrative of Handel’s masterpiece commenced, all eyes were on the musicians. Hearts could be felt lifting and souls rejoicing, and whether old or young, religious or not, avid music lovers or first time visitors to City Hall, every single person was enthralled.

The Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town balanced the timbre and sonority inherent in each section to create perfect harmony as if from one angelic voice. The choral highlight, anticipated by so many this evening, was the majestic Hallelujah chorus, which was met with roaring applause.

Special mention has to be made of the conductor and musical director of the Philharmonia Choir, Richard Haigh, whose evident passion for this masterpiece could be sensed by all, and the Cape  Town Philharmonic Orchestra, which included an organ as well as a harpsichord player, creating a true baroque atmosphere.  All four soloists executed their respective arias and recitatives with great emotion and meticulous skill, while the immaculately bright voice of young soprano Elizabeth du Toit reached even the laziest of listeners, who sat up straighter as if to receive more of the celestial voice’s soothing magic.

Marie Stinnes

The Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performed Handel’s Messiah at Cape Town City Hall on Easter Sunday, 5 April 2015.

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