Accompanied by a coterie of gifted solo artists, a bespoke Kent Tritle strode to center stage in a radiant, scarlet jacket to conduct Handel’s Messiah (1741) by the Oratorio Society of New York. The full house erupted into a resounding applause befitting the greatest historical luminaries of choral conducting, like Robert Shaw, Sir David Willcocks, and Sir George Solti.
The sublime opening intones of the opening Sinfonia, set in a stately French overture form, established the work’s overall pathos and foundation for the first Arioso performed by tenor Martin Bakari. With ‘Comfort Ye’ and ‘Ev’ry Valley,’ Bakari demonstrated his crisp diction, articulation, expressive power, and mastery of swift melismatic passages.
Tritle conducted with bravura, inspiration, and precision. His choices of dynamics and tempi built energy, excitement, urgency, and intensity. Messiah emerged as a living, breathing entity of vitality and passion. For audiences new and seasoned, Tritle reinvented and refreshed Messiah, crafting its musical treasures for heightened accessibility as he delivered glorious crescendi and decrescendi.
These variations of dynamics occurred within the scope of Tritle’s faithfulness to the precepts of Baroque Affektenlehre that masterfully characterized anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival, the sorrow of his crucifixion, and the glory of his resurrection. After all, Handel’s score markings are less about dynamics and more associated with tempo and atmosphere with terms like Largo, Larghetto, Allegro, and Andante. Tritle displayed his unwavering commitment to excellence and ability to connect with an audience through music’s expressive power.
Countertenor Daniel Moody demonstrated his dramatic vocal authority throughout the concert. Moody’s extended range projected ethereal beauty, while his vocal agility displayed a fluid and effortless musical flow. Moody’s vocal acrobatics and virtuosity conveyed a sense of passion and conviction essential to the interpretation of Messiah. We heard this and more in Moody’s performance of ‘O thou tellest good tidings to Zion.’
John Brancy, bass-baritone, projected a deep and powerful aural narrative. His strong presence conveyed a sense of solemnity and gravity as in the aria “Why do the nations so furiously rage together?” Brancy also expressed triumph and joy, as noted in “The trumpet shall sound” with the addition of virtuoso trumpeter Maximilian Morel. Brancy’s role served as a key element in the work’s rich and dynamic sound tapestry.
Soprano Kathryn Lewek’s performance of ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’ reminded us that her role represented the voice of an angel who announces the good news of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Lewek touched hearts with ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion,’ ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth,’ and ‘How beautiful are the feet.’ These arias showcased Lewek’s command of both powerful and delicate sounds characterized by clarity and purity of tone. Lewek ably expressed her role in Messiah to evoke feelings of hope, joy, and wonder in a performance arguably noted as a highlight of the oratorio. Through her voice and the angelic characters she embodied, Lewek conveyed the uplifting message of redemption that is at the heart of Messiah.
With superb soloists, orchestra, and choir led by Maestro Kent Tritle, tonight’s Carnegie Hall performance by the Oratorio Society of New York bolstered Messiah’s legacy as one of the greatest choral works ever written. It was an evening of jubilation, inspiration, and sublime artistry. The climactic extended standing ovation was well deserved.
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
881 7th Avenue (at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue)
New York, NY 10019
For Information and tickets, go to CarnegieHall.org
Oratorio Society of New York
Leopold Damrosch, Founder
Kent Tritle, conductor
Kathryn Lewek, soprano
Daniel Moody, countertenor
Martin Bakari, tenor
John Brancy, bass-baritone
Maximilian Morel, Trumpet
1140 Avenue of the Americas, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10036–5803
For Information and tickets, go to OSNY.ORG
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Christmas at Corpus Christi Church, The American Symphony Orchestra and Händel’s Judas Maccabaeus, Peter & the Wolf by Works & Process, Transcendent Triumph and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2, Musica Sacra at Carnegie Hall, The Orchestra Now at Symphony Space, and The New Jersey Ballet at the Mayo Arts Center.