Royal Scottish National Orchestra: Handel’s Messiah

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Miranda Heggie

Four Stars

Heralding the arrival of 2020, the RSNO saw in the new year in time honoured tradition, with their annual Glasgow performance of Handel’s Messiah. Under the baton of baroque expert Nicholas McGegan, the orchestra opened with a full and rounded tone. McGegan fully exploited the differing colours in Handel’s score, as the orchestra played with stark differences in mood. From refined poise in the recitative sections, to a joyful rambunctiousness for the chorus passages, the orchestra brought a wide and varied palette to the piece.

The chorus, too, wonderfully demonstrated the varying characteristics of the music. From light and spritely in the first part, to strong and powerful for the opening of the second, they compellingly communicated the piece, always with near-perfect diction. Though many distinct aspects were heard throughout the performance, these were bound together by a sense of joviality and invigorating energy, only amplified by the audience rising to their feet to join in for the Hallelujah Chorus!

The quartet of vocal soloists were each a joy to listen to. Tenor Nicholas Mulroy sang the opening recitative and aria with a light yet full tone, and Baritone William Berger had a potent voice and arresting presence, most notably heard in the aria ‘Why do the nations so furiously rage together’. Mezzo soprano Diana Moore sang with a rich, berry-hued tone, and her duet with soprano Rowan Pierce, ‘He shall feed his flock’ was beautifully sung by both. Pierce’s ornamentation was exquisite here, her supple, sparkling soprano buoying the music.