Review: Variety and Risk in Trinity Wall Street’s ‘Messiah’

Julian Wachner
The New York Times

Alongside its mighty choruses, Handel’s “Messiah” features a string of solo recitatives and airs for soprano, alto, tenor and bass. As such, it is usually performed by a choir and four soloists representing each of those voice types. But Trinity Wall Street, which presented the first of its three concerts of the oratorio on Wednesday at Trinity Church, adheres to a different practice. Drawing on a deep pool of talent among its 28-member chorus, it fields a whole flock of soloists: 13 at the initial presentation.

This results in electrified exchanges between the group and its individual members. With each solo, the audience gets to know another singer, so that by the final “Amen,” the chorus has become an ensemble of characters, its sound colored by the memories of individual voices.

The beauty of Trinity Wall Street’s “Messiah” — and it’s dazzlingly beautiful each year — owes much to its variety. There’s also vibrant tension between the purposeful vision of the conductor, Julian Wachner, who urges the music on with brisk tempos and meticulously built choral fugues, and the freedom the singers bring to their solos.

This year there also appeared to be a more pronounced willingness to take risks. The countertenor Tim Parsons belted out the final words of “But Who May Abide” in full, startling chest voice. The high countertenor Eric Brenner embellished “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” with inventive ornaments. For “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” one of several airs given over to the expressive bass Jonathan Woody, the trumpeter John Thiessen ascended the pulpit, playing the extensive solo from memory.

Read the rest of the review here