TSO Messiah via Mozart

Leslie Barcza, barczablog

Tonight I heard something different from the Toronto Symphony.

The TSO’s annual Messiah in Roy Thomson Hall with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir may seem like a ritual, but it actually varies from year to year.

Every time we get different soloists; more on that in a moment.

And some years they vary the actual musical score that’s being played. Handel’s Messiah has been presented in many versions, using many performance philosophies even if you don’t go for something radical like Soundstreams’ “Electric Messiah” or Andrew Davis’s muscular re-orchestration that’s been done a few times at the TSO.

This year we’re hearing Mozart’s take on Messiah. Eyebrows may go up in places where it’s not done the usual way, whether it’s the additional winds, the different phrasing & voicing or for instance when the soloist says “The Trumpet Shall Sound” and we get some trumpet and lots of horns as well. But there are always trade-offs. While we get the score as Mozart revised it we also get a modern orchestra and performing space, which had me wondering what this might sound like with a period band like Tafelmusik playing in a smaller space with a smaller chorus, rather than the big space & the large-scale sounds of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. We’re in a comparable situation to watching Marriage of Figaro or Cosi fan tutte done at the Metropolitan Opera House, where we may love the quality of the performance but without intimacy due to the big venue.

Read the full review here.