Paul McCreesh & the Tölzer Knabenchor

Mary Bevan, Soprano

Tim Mead, Countertenor

Jeremy Ovenden, Tenor

Neal Davies, Bass

Tölzer Knabenchor

Kammerorchester Basel

Paul McCreesh, Conductor

GEORG FRIDERIC HANDEL:

“Messiah”, Oratorio for Soloists, Choir and Orchestra, HWV 56

Recorded on 15 July 2017 in the Church in Saanen

Paul McCreesh’s interpretation of «Messiah»

Everybody knows Georg Frideric Handel’s «Halleluja». But what else do we know about his «Messiah»?

On July 15 2017 the Gstaad Menuhin Festival’s audience had the privilege to learn more about the authentic and true character of Handel’s fantastic oratorio. The English conductor and Handel expert, Paul McCreesh was visiting with «his» Gabrieli Consort & Players. He is the group’s founder and artistic director.

To McCreesh it was vital to go back to the sources, because we had become used to theatrical and sentimental interpretations of «Messiah». They became fashionable back in the 19th century with Queen Victoria’s gigantic concerts at the Crystal Palace. These events allowed ten thousands of Londoners to experience classical music.

Even the king rose when he heard the «Hallaluja»

It’s not wrong or problematic in itself to adapt music to a certain context, Paul McCreesh explained to us. Handel himself used to change his work (music and libretto!) according to the context in which it was staged – be it a different city or even country.

However, McCreesh decided to perform Messiah in the same, original manner it first premiered in Dublin on April 13 1742. This version is exceptionally personal and magnificently true to the great libretto by Charles Jennenes.

Unfortunately, the libretto, contrasting episodes from the Old and the New testament, did not enjoy huge success with the pious Londoners of its era. They went our of their way to ruin the masterpiece’s reputation, stating that it was too pompous and lacking in silence and space for devotion. Later «Messiah» became very popular in the capital. The audience in London needed time to get accustomed to a new kind of biblical drama – operating without set design or costumes, relying solely on the power of the music. But then it took London in a storm!

They say that King George II, after hearing the «Halluluja» for the first time, jumped up from his chair. He was deeply moved and led the rest of audience to follow his example.

Paul McCreesh

Artist Description

Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort & Players embody the best «authentic» interpretation of old music. And yet, during our conversation on occasion of his performance of Haydn's «The Seasons» at the church of Saanen, he confessed that he found such labels rather debatable. «To be honest with you, I never saw myself as a specialist for certain kind of music.» McCreesh compared himself with a free electron, moving, without being held back, from one style to another. «Some critiques would say that this attitude equals professional suicide. I, however, am all for an intuitive approach to music. Love is always more important than intellect; I'd rather leave this field to the great musicologists and their research. To me there are only two kinds of music: Good music and bad music.»

More than just a conductor: He re-invents music

When studying Paul McCreesh's discography (most of it is released by Deutsche Grammophon while he recently started his own label «Winged Lion») and following his many tours all around the world, you will find that there is hardly any «bad» music. We fondly remember his concerts at the Gstaad Menuhin Festival: Mozart's Requiem in 2016, Handel's Messiah in 2017, Haydn's The Seasons in 2018 - all of them were outstanding performances. And they all had a very personal note that turned an ordinary interpretation into a unique masterpiece. Let's remember how McCreesh, by re-writing the English text of Haydn's The Seasons, re-created this fantastic masterpiece in order to rehabilitating it for the English speaking world. (Baron van Swieten had translated the German libretto into a rather clumsy English for Haydn.) «Whilst a composer would start off from the libretto to write music, I had to take the opposite path; I let the music guide me to find the right words. I wanted the singers to enjoy themselves whilst singing! »
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Comments on “Messiah – Part 1

Voila donc un programme particulierement bien inscrit dans le theme de cette annee. Le souffle miraculeux de la nature sous tous ses aspects et a travers le cycle des saisons, la tendresse (et la drolerie) des scenes humaines qui en temoignent, composent une fresque passionnante a suivre et a vivre. La partition a diffuse ainsi sa puisante energie trouvant en Paul McCreesh son plus fervent interprete. La coherence du programme de ce soir s inscrit aussi comme une nouvelle etape de sa « residence » au Gstaad Menuhin Festival Apres un concert hommage a Menuhin en 2016 pour le centenaire du violoniste et pour les 60 ans du Festival, et apres, l an dernier, un fabuleux Messiah de Handel non moins passionnant.

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