Handel in Seattle: Major festival shows there’s much more to the man than ‘Messiah’
Crosscut Tout: A heaping plate of Handel in March
KIRO News Radio:
Handel Festival explodes in Seattle
Review: One-act ‘The Man in the Mirror’ has fun with Handel
A short comic fantasy on a Handel theme
There’s something about spoofs…
“The Man in the Mirror” (you, the audience, are the mirror) was composed by Ben Bernstein for the festival and these performances are its premiere.
CLASSICAL MUSIC: Handel in Seattle: a festival not to be missed
By Bernard Jacobson for the Kitsap Sun
Sunday, March 6, 2011
He was born in Germany, in 1685. His reputation began to develop during the six years he spent as a young man in Italy, where he was hailed as “the dear Saxon.” But it was the final five decades of his life that unequivocally established George Frideric Handel, settled throughout that time in London, as a major master.
Just how major? Well, Ludwig van Beethoven, not a man much given to sprinkling compliments, declared of Handel: “To him I would bow the knee.” He was, Beethoven declared, “the master of us all: the greatest effects with the simplest means.”
From March 11 to 27, music lovers in the Seattle area – doubtless joined by visitors from all over – will have what might well be their best opportunity ever to test the accuracy of that judgement. The American Handel Festival is coming to town.
Founded in 1981, the American Handel Society presented the festival for its first years at the University of Maryland, but it has taken to the road since the death of prime-mover Howard Serwer in 2000. We’re indebted for its landing in Seattle to musicologist Marty Ronish, a former student of Serwer’s who moved here in 2007 from National Public Radio in Washington, DC, and who has been the dynamo organizing this year’s event.
“Normally,” Ronish says, “the festival is a four-day scholarly conference with a couple of concerts, but Seattle had different ideas. Every single person I talked to wanted to be a part of it, and I figured who was I to say no?” So this time, as well as the conference and two workshops–one of them offering the opportunity to sing Handel choruses for yourself–the festival will stretch over 17 days. Included are no fewer than 30 concerts, offering a liberal choice from the composer’s huge output, which includes 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantatas, trios, and duets, and chamber music for various instruments, as well as arias, odes, and serenatas, 16 organ concertos, and two substantial sets of orchestral concertos. Most of the events will take place in the First Hill neighborhood, within walking distance from the Sorrento Hotel, which has provided both moral and material support in the course of the preparations.
One of the most significant features of this Handel festival is that it will not include a performance of Messiah. That masterpiece kept Handel’s repute alive for many years when the rest of his music was virtually a closed book, and it’s still–along with the delightful Water Music–what people tend to think of first when his name is mentioned. But in the view of this critic at least, the emphasis does the composer a disservice, for his catalog of works includes many that are perhaps even greater. The reason for this, I think, is that Handel’s genius resides before anything else in his ability, through purely musical means, to create rivetingly real and moving human beings. In Messiah, the vocal soloists are just that–simply vocal soloists; they do not portray specific characters.
So I am especially delighted that the charming and picturesque chamber opera Acis and Galatea will have a staged performance in Town Hall on March 25, and that one of the finest of Handel’s oratorios, Esther, will be heard the following day in the acoustically glorious St. James Cathedral. One of Seattle’s own leading early-music performers, Stephen Stubbs (who rose to international stature while living in Germany for 30 years before coming back to his home town), collaborates with Paul O’Dette and stage director Gilbert Blin in the visiting Boston Early Music Festival’s Acis, and then conducts his own Pacific Musicworks and the Tudor Choir in Esther, with soloists Shannon Mercer, Ross Hauck, Charles Robert Stephens, Zachary Wilder, Catherine Webster, and Matthew White.
Handel’s Dixit Dominus: a paradox of beauty and fury
by Zach Carstensen on March 23, 2011 from The Gathering Note
Handel’s Dixit Dominus is a curious testament to GF Handel’s time in Italy. A setting of Psalm 109, it is on the one hand a deeply spiritual statement. Handel’s contrapuntal inventiveness and his flexible, often soaring writing for chorus and vocal soloists, do more than state Christian beliefs, they embody a deep spirituality. On the other hand, the text — angry, vengeful, furious — seldom matches the spirit of Handel’s music. There is plenty of mention of enemies (“your foes I will put beneath your feet”); power (“rule in the midst of all your foes”); violence (“he shall crush the heads in the land of many”); and of course judgment (“he shall judge among the nations…”) This is the paradox of the Dixit Dominus and it is also exactly why I am moved by the piece every time I hear it.
Last weekend Karen Thomas and Seattle Pro Musica brought not just Handel’s Dixit Dominus, but also his Chandos Anthem No. 8 and Utrecht Jubilate Deo to St. James Cathedral. The performance served double duty. It was both Pro Musica’s spring concert and part of the ongoing American Handel Festival in Seattle. Not surprisingly, all three pieces came across splendidly in the warm sound world of St. James.
Portland Baroque presents Bach’s St John Passion as part of Handel Festival
by Special to The Gathering Note on March 22, 2011
By Philippa Kiraly
We don’t often have the opportunity to hear either of the great Bach Passions, so we owe a big vote of thanks to the Early Music Guild for bringing us a stellar performance of the St. John Passion by Portland Baroque Orchestra, Les Voix Baroques, and Cappella Romana, Sunday afternoon at Town Hall.
Monica Huggett, violinist and artistic director of Portland Baroque, chose to perform it with a small orchestra of fourteen and small chorus of twelve.which included the soloists. While this Passion is shorter than the St. Matthew, two and a quarter hours including an intermission, this puts quite a burden on the singers who stood throughout, particularly tenor Charles Daniels, who sang all the chorales and choruses as well as the demanding role of the Evangelist.
With forces of this size, probably similar to those Bach had at his disposal, it was possible to hear every detail of the harmonies, and while words were often not very clear in the choral parts, every word the soloists sang was audible. Daniels was a superb Evangelist. Accompanied by continuo harpsichord and cello and standing on a podium in the midst of the orchestra, he was a compelling and consummate storyteller as well as fine singer.
A Bach masterpiece, uncommonly well served
Article by Tom Luce for Crosscut.com, March 21, 2011
Early Music Guild presents a deeply moving and musically accomplished ‘St. John Passion.’
Sunday afternoon (March 20), one day shy of Bach’s birth 326 years ago, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, led from the front desk of the violins by the English violinist and conductor Monica Huggett, gave a musically accomplished and dramatically powerful performance at Town Hall Seattle of the composer’s “Passion According to St. John.” Working with them were singers from the Canadian group Les Voix Baroques and, also from Portland, Cappella Romana.
The event was part the Early Music Guild’s current season and also a highlight of the American Handel Society’s Handel Festival in Seattle. We are in the season of Lent, when these Passions were performed. Bach and Handel were born in the same year, 1685. They knew of and admired each other though never quite met, so its timing was apposite in every way you can think of.
I make no bones about my own conviction that Bach is the supreme genius of Western music so far, and perhaps even of Western civilization, and that his two main surviving settings of the Christian Passion are amongst his very greatest works. No excuse is needed for programming these works at any time of year, even though the long tradition of giving them in the run up to Easter started with their first performances in Leipzig in the 1720s and such musical celebrations of the Passion (Christ’s suffering and crucifixion) had roots going even further back into the late middle ages.
Julianne Baird entrances Gallery concertgoers
Special to The Gathering Note on March 17, 2011
By Philippa Kiraly
I first heard soprano Julianne Baird singing Baroque arias around a quarter century ago. I thought her voice was perfect then, but now, maturity has added more depth to a rich purity of sound making hearing her an experience not readily forgotten.
Baird was performing with Gallery Concerts at Queen Anne Christian Church Saturday and Sunday in the opening weekend of this month’s Handel Festival. Together with harpsichordist Jillon Stoppels Dupree, violinist Tekla Cunningham and gamba player Margriet Tindemans, and a delightful lecture prior to the concert by George Bozarth, the concert gave a fine sampling of Handel’s oratorical and operatic activities punctuated by instrumental works.
Baird sang arias in English from the oratorios “Joshua” and “Semele,” including from the former the best known of the works she sang, “O! Had I Jubal’s Lyre,” and others from the operas “Radamisto,” Rodelinda,” and Lotario.” These are just a sprinkling from the more than 40 operas and 20 oratorios which came from Handel’s fertile mind, though many may have had arias recycled from previous works.
It was a fascinating juxtaposition to have heard, Friday, Handel and contemporary arias sung at the SSO’s “Songs of Cleopatra” program by soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, and then Baird two days later: very different voices, each persuasive in the literature.
The immediate impression created by Baird, was the ease with which she sang. These arias are florid, fast and complex, and range all over the map vocally and dynamically.
Baird accomplished the long melismatic runs and the trills of variable speeds like a hummingbird’s hoverings, sounding so relaxed she could give her all to the emotional content.
Perhaps her most memorable performance was her second aria, “”O, Sleep, Why Dost Thou Leave Me?” from “Semele.” Anyone who suffers from insomnia could have related to the anguish she portrayed in Handel’s exquisite music.
A busy weekend for Seattle Baroque fans, with Handel Festival
A busy weekend of Handel Festival and Baroque events in Seattle March 18-20, including “Dixit Dominus” and Bach’s St. John Passion.
By Tom Keogh, Special to The Seattle Times
For information on the festival, in Seattle through March 27: 206-999-7045 or www.americanhandelfestival.org
The sprawling ambition of the American Handel Festival, which includes an American Handel Society conference plus 30 concerts over 17 days, continues this weekend at various Seattle venues.
What to look for around town:
Our Lady of Fatima Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra (playing period instruments), directed by Matthew Loucks, presents “Evening Prayer,” music composed by a young Handel for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the church of St. Maria de Monte Santo in Rome.
7:30 p.m., Our Lady of Fatima Parish, 3307 W. Dravus St. $15 goodwill offering is requested.
Later on Friday, the festival hosts a 9:30 p.m. fundraiser at the Sorrento Hotel built around “The Man in the Mirror,” a new, one-act opera by Ben Bernstein. Popular Seattle tenor Ross Hauck stars in a comic and poignant backstage glimpse at a singer’s self-doubt while preparing for a performance of “Messiah.”
900 Madison St., $50, includes wine and dessert; 206-999-7045.
Review: Seattle Symphony and guest soprano set Handel fest beautifully in motion
Seattle Symphony kicks off the American Handel Festival with a program including soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and well-known Handelian conductor Nicholas McGegan, on March 11 and 12, 2011.
By Bernard Jacobson, Special to The Seattle Times
Seattle Symphony, with Isabel Bayrakdarian, soprano, and Nicholas McGegan conducting, 8 p.m. Saturday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $39-$70 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).
CONCERT REVIEW |
The American Handel Festival, set to bring Seattleites a generous sampling of the master’s music over the next two weeks, got off to an auspicious start on Friday evening. Isabel Bayrakdarian was a thrilling soloist, and the Seattle Symphony played under the leadership of one of the leading Handelians of our time, Nicholas McGegan, a conductor whose concerts are never less than exhilarating.
The best composer-centered festivals tend to be those that present the subject of their focus not in isolation, but set in context by work from other hands. This festival is no exception. Friday’s brilliant and stylish performances of an F-major suite from Handel’s “Water Music,” excerpts from his opera “Giulio Cesare,” and his G-major Concerto grosso, Op. 6 No. 1, were flanked by explorations of three of his German contemporaries.
The evening was headlined “Songs of Cleopatra.” That Egyptian queen is famous not only for her political acumen but for her bewitching appearance, so it was appropriate that the singer representing her on the stage of Benaroya Hall is herself a striking beauty.
Isabel Bayrakdarian’s good looks, however, are worthily matched by her voice and artistry. The voice itself is essentially a lyric soprano, but she wields it with more power than that designation would suggest. The arias she sang from Graun’s “Cleopatra e Cesare” and Hasse’s “Marc’Antonio e Cleopatra” called forth some fearless coloratura, free and flexible throughout the range, and clear in the separation between notes even at rapid tempos.
Perhaps more impressive still was her profound identification with the grief of the death scene from “Cleopatra,” by Johann Mattheson, who once fought a duel with Handel but remained on terms of close friendship with him. The four sections of this intensely emotional excerpt ended the official program, but the ovation that greeted its performance was rewarded with an aria from the same work, and this little gem reinforced the impression that this neglected composer and his music must surely be candidates for rediscovery.