DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Is Toronto Getting Tired Of Messiah Yet?

By Michael Vincent on December 20, 2016

Nicholas McGegan, TSO (Photo: Jag Gundu)
Nicholas McGegan, TSO (Photo: Jag Gundu)

Handel’s Messiah: The Toronto Symphony Orchestra with soloists Yulia Van Doren (soprano), Abigail Levis (mezzo-soprano), Isaiah Bell (tenor), Daniel Okulitch (bass-baritone), and the Toronto Mendelsohn Choir. Roy Thomson Hall, Dec. 18.

Braving a Sunday afternoon in downtown Toronto during a busy holiday shopping weekend is no job for amateurs. So when the Toronto Symphony Orchestra opened their annual Messiah this past Sunday, I jumped at the chance to spend an afternoon with Handel’s holiday classic.

I wasn’t alone. There were hoards of people in puffy winter parkas with the same idea. As a balm to the busyness happening just yards away, a very different kind of Messiah unfolded.

This year’s shift away from the TSO’s “Mega Messiah” was a welcome return to the smaller, baroque-styled focus led by conductor Nicholas McGegan. While I’m not nearly brave enough to argue for one approach over the other, the results spoke for themselves and McGegan’s approach was embraced with open arms.

Returning after his TSO debut in 2015 was tenor Isaiah Bell, who was a compliment to the role. Alongside bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch, both voices took the technical challenges of the work with a swaggered ease. Most importantly, their way was paved with the required personality and emotion that kept the things moving forward.

Isaiah Bell, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Nicholas McGegan, TSO (Photo: Jag Gundu)
Isaiah Bell, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Nicholas McGegan, TSO (Photo: Jag Gundu)

Mezzo-soprano Abigail Levis, along with Okulitch, made her TSO debut with a strong personality and a voice to match.

Yulia Van Doren, was perhaps the strongest of them all, especially her unique vocal ornamentation that fluttered through the work like a tropical songbird.

As for the chorus, the Toronto Mendelsohn Choir were on stage arranged on risers behind the orchestra. The aural effect was worthwhile. Rather than the typical arrangement of situating the chorus in the choir loft, on stage allowed for a centralised and cohesive reference emanating through the orchestra.

TMC’s female voices were in particularly fine form, and the overall balance was both polished and powerful. I think we all agree how lucky we are in Toronto to have a choir like the TMC to keep choral music at such a high standard in our city.

The orchestra, not to be outdone, played with particular focus on the transparency of the sound. The near vibrato-less strings were played with relatively short bow strokes. While one could say that the sound was thin and lacking in colour, the idea here was to create a glassy sound which functioned a bit like more like a film score, which allowed the narrative to live out front.

Even with our modern-day penchant for the huge, dense explosions of sound that Roy Thomson Hall was acoustically built for, McGegan has become a serious and convincing voice for the baroque approach to Messiah.

In a sentence, this year’s TSO Messiah was about the collective soloists, orchestra, choir, and one conductor, McGegan, with the vision to put them all together — just so.

The TSO’s Messiah run through Dec. 23. Details and tickets found, here.

For more REVIEWS, see HERE.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and reviews before anyone else finds out? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for all the latest.

Michael Vincent
Follow me

Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent has worked as a senior editor for La Scena Musicale and web editor for Norman Lebrecht. On January 21, 2014, he went to lunch and left as the publisher of Musical Toronto. Later that year he found himself as a freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star, the former employer of his favourite author Ernest Hemingway. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
Follow me

Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | Kelly-Marie Murphy Wins Azrieli Commission For Jewish Music

By Jennifer Liu on September 6, 2017

Ottawa-based composer Kelly-Marie Murphy is the latest winner of the Azrieli Foundation's Commission for Jewish Music.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

INTERVIEW | A Passion For Music: The Birth Of The Kandinsky Collective

By Joseph So on August 23, 2017

Five musicians from the Toronto area converge to celebrate their common passion, in spite of their disparate life journeys.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

FEATURE | Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra Brings Human Dialogue To Toronto

By Ludwig Van on September 11, 2017

In one month, Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra will bring its unique brand of Eastern and Western musics to Toronto. Here's what we can expect.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.