THE STORY BEHIND: Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No.1

On February 14 & 15, cellist Johannes Moser will join Tania Miller, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a romantic Valentine’s Weekend program.

THE STORY BEHIND: Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No.1

Title: Cello Concerto No.1 in A Minor, Op.33

Composer: Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: April 11, 2015 with soloist Alban Gerhardt

Orchestration: In addition to a solo cello, the work is scored for two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

At age 37, Camille Saint-Saëns was a productive, crusading composer. He was determined to resuscitate the true spirit of French music, which he viewed as having become stagnant and sterile under the heavy influence of Wagner. Not that Saint-Saëns was entirely anti-German. In fact, that year (1872) under the pen name of Phémius, he began writing music criticism favoring Germanic composers Handel and Liszt alongside his particular French favorites, Rameau and Gounod. His own music also showed strong traces of the German symphonic school, since there was no real French symphonic tradition at the time.

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One of Saint-Saëns’s most concise yet most important contributions to the symphonic idiom is his Cello Concerto in A Minor, written the same year he took up the pen as Phémius. It is a work that makes effective, occasionally showy, use of the solo cello without ever degrading the part with empty virtuosity. It is a tightly knit work as well, written in three compact movements that connect without pause. The music has a thematic economy: The first movement’s main theme returns prominently in the finale and then is transformed into a new theme. Continuous form, thematic recursion and transformation—these are Lisztian techniques that Saint-Saëns adapts expertly.

The first movement immediately introduces the main theme, a melody of flaring arabesques that shows off the cello well. A second, sustained theme contrasts sharply, and both themes play important roles in the movement’s working-out.

The middle movement is an Allegretto in minuet rhythms. Scored chiefly for muted strings, the movement allows the solo cello to outline the dance in delicate gestures. In place of a Trio section, the composer gives the cello a short, restrained solo cadenza (the only one in the concerto). A reprise of the minuet follows, but more vividly colored and more romantic.

Creeping in quietly, the original main theme announces the opening of the finale. A gradual dynamic build leads to the cello’s entrance on the theme, which is rhapsodically spun out, leading soon to a second theme. This, however, is a subtle transformation of elements from the minuet theme and the main theme. The rise and fall shape of the minuet theme joins the twisting motion and triplet rhythms of the main theme to generate a new idea. Later in the movement, just before the restatement, the cello plays a particularly effective high scale. A full, quick-tempo coda in a major key gives the cello some brilliant scale passages and rounds out the work. Musicologist/conductor Donald Tovey summed up this concerto with the remark that it is “pure and brilliant without putting on chastity as a garment, and without calling attention to its jewelry at a banquet of poor relations.”

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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MEET THE SOLOIST: Johannes Moser, cello: Romeo & Juliet, February 14 & 15, 2020

Johannes Moser Violoncello

Johannes Moser, cello

Performs Saint-Saens’s Concerto for Violincello, No.1

Amica Rush Hour Concert Series: February 14, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

TACO Classical Concert Series: February 15, 2020 at 8 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

Background: Johannes began studying the cello at the age of eight and became a student of Professor David Geringas in 1997. A voracious reader of everything from Kafka to Collins, and an avid outdoorsman, Johannes is a keen hiker and mountain biker in what little spare time he has.

Highlights:

  • He was the top prize winner at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, in addition to being awarded the Special Prize for his interpretation of the Rococo Variations.
  • In 2014 he was awarded with the prestigious Brahms prize.
  • Plays on an Andrea Guarneri Cello from 1694 from a private collection.
  • In the 2019/20 season, performed two world premieres of Cello Concertos by Andrew Norman with the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel and Bernd Richard Deutsch’s with the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich conducted by Yutaka Sado

Critical Praise:

  • “One of the finest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists” – Gramophone Magazine
  • “His tone was big and warm where needed, and he proved himself capable of some Rostropovich-like wild abandon…he was consistently eloquent.” – The Telegraph
  • “Johannes Moser gave a superb recital Friday night…It helps that he has a brilliant ­technique, a darkly rich tone, and a deeply felt musicianship. But Moser adds an expressive face and body language that adds flavor to his visual appeal. He’s fun to watch.” –  The Daily Gazette

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde: Prelude & Libestod

On February 14 & 15, cellist Johannes Moser will join Tania Miller, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a romantic Valentine’s Weekend program.

THE STORY BEHIND: Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde: Prelude & Libestod

 

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Tristan and Isolde. Mural in the bedroom, August Spiess, 1881

 

Title: Tristan and Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod

Composer: Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: October 18, 2008

Orchestration: This piece is scored for piccolo, three flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, harp, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

The eternal story of lovers who can never be united—except in death. That is the theme of the two greatest love tragedies of the Western world: Romeo and Juliet, and Tristan and Isolde. Richard Wagner conceived the idea of an operatic Tristan and Isolde in 1854 under the influence of readings from Arthur Schopenhauer and his own love for a woman, Mathilde Wesendonk. Wagner had completed Die Walküre for The Ring cycle in 1856, and by the end of that year he was working on the libretto to Tristan. The following August, the composer broke off work on The Ring entirely to devote himself to composing Tristan. Exactly three years later, work was completed on what may be the most consummate realization of Wagner’s ideal “music drama” and possibly the greatest of his operas.

Richard-Wagner
Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

The famous opening of the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde interlocks two of the opera’s most important melodies. This leads to a long build in the music that drives relentlessly to the Prelude’s sensuous climactic moment.

In a program note written in 1860, Wagner writes of the: “. . . longing, longing, insatiable longing, forever springing up anew, pining and thirsting. . . . In one extended succession of linked phrases . . . that insatiable longing swells from the first, timid avowal . . . through anxious sighs, hopes and fears, bliss and torment . . . into the seas of lovers’ endless delight. But in vain!

In the final scene of the opera, Tristan dies in Isolde’s arms. Now in a shocked trance, she sings her final soliloquy. Though filled with emotion, the orchestral music in this scene projects a strange, consoling sweetness rather than dark tragedy. At last, Isolde joins Tristan in the only way possible, as Wagner wrote:

Death, which means passing away, perishing, never awakening, their only deliverance. . . . Shall we call this realm Death? Or is it not rather the wonder- world of Night, from which, as legend tells, the ivy and the vine grew from the graves of Tristan and Isolde to entwine in inseparable embrace?

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet

On February 14 & 15, cellist Johannes Moser will join Tania Miller, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a romantic Valentine’s Weekend program.

THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet

Title: Romeo and Juliet: Overture-Fantasy

Composer: Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: December 7, 1991, with Marin Alsop conducting

Orchestration: The piece is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, four bassoons, two horns, three trumpets, tuba, harp, timpani, percussion and strings.

The Story: 

Tchaikovsky
Peter I. Tchaikovsky

 

During the Romantic era, Shakespearean plays captured the imagination of several major composers. This tendency was felt not only in the opera house, but also in the concert hall. In the late 1830s, Berlioz had composed a “dramatic symphony” based on Romeo and Juliet, and in 1869, Peter I. Tchaikovsky turned his hand masterfully to a programmatic orchestral piece based on that famous tragedy.

The subject was suggested to Tchaikovsky by his friend and sometime mentor, Mily

Milij_Aleksejevič_Balakirev_(Милий_Алексеевич_Бала́кирев)
Mily Balakirev

Balakirev, who had composed an overture to King Lear some years earlier. After the premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture in March 1870, the composer revised the work, incorporating some further advice from Balakirev. He replaced the original rather dull “Friar Lawrence” theme with a hymn-like passage “having an ancient Catholic character.” In 1880, the composer again made some revisions, notably a complete replacement of the ending.

Tchaikovsky’s music does not depict the events of the play. Rather, the main themes represent the principal characters and ideas. In order of appearance, these are Friar Lawrence, the feud of the Capulets and the Montagues, and the love of Romeo and Juliet.

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Friar Lawrence at Capulet by James Northcote

After a lengthy introduction based on the Friar Lawrence theme, the main Allegro giusto introduces the fiery, rhythmic thematic complex symbolizing the feud. Ultimately, this gives way to the long-breathed love theme, sensuously presented by English horn and muted violas. A second love theme, carved out of even notes, is then heard in the strings. Out of this theme derives a steady, panting motive with which the horn accompanies the second presentation of the main love theme.

An extensive development section, dominated by the feud motives, incorporates also snippets of the Lawrence and love themes. In the recapitulation, the main love theme receives an extensive treatment, finally reaching heights of exaltation, only to be broken off by the feud theme. Fragments of the Lawrence theme and the panting motive struggle against this intrusion until at last they are overpowered.

The quiet coda is an elegiac cortège. A transformed fragment of the lovers’ theme is sounded above the timpani’s dirge rhythm. Just before the full orchestra’s final somber fanfare, an upward-reaching motive from the love theme plays repeatedly, perhaps implying that though Romeo and Juliet are gone, theirs was a love that transcends death.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Symphony No.41 (Jupiter)

On January 25, violinist Karen Gomyo will join Bramwell Tovey, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra to perform a special program featuring music composed by Wolfgang A. Mozart.

werk_00a_symphonien_gross_c3692b26_f220THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Symphony No.41 (Jupiter)

Title: Symphony No.41 in C Major, K.551 (Jupiter)

Composer: Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756–1791)

When was the last time the Rhode Island Philharmonic played this piece: November 10, 2001

Orchestration: This piece is scored for on flute, two each of oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

During the summer of 1788, life was not going well for Mozart. Despite the successes of The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna (1786) and Don Giovanni in Prague (1787), Mozart’s lack of income had reduced him to begging money from his friend, a textile merchant named Michael von Puchberg. During June and July, he wrote four letters to Puchberg continually asking for loans and making blue-sky promises of repayment as soon as his music started making money again.

Unfortunately, Mozart’s sincerity was much greater than his prospects. Through the summer, he composed diligently. In the remarkably short period of about two months, he composed three symphonies (the last in C major), which would prove to be his “final great trilogy.” These have become a Mozartian mystery. What occasion did he have in mind for performing these sublime works?

p17mozartALAMYDynamic contrast is the rhetoric of the Jupiter symphony’s opening two-motive theme, which Donald Tovey describes as “energetic gestures alternating with gentle pleadings.” The first movement’s second and concluding themes are lighter and more rococo. However, lightness is not long lived, as the latter becomes the theme of the development’s dramatic first half. In the second half, Mozart concentrates on the “energetic” first motive of the movement, leading naturally to a solid recapitulation.

In the Andante cantabile, also a sonata form, Mozart creates a mood by calling for muted strings. The idea of dynamic contrast recurs in this movement through sudden forte chords that punctuate the opening theme. The serenity of the opening soon gives way to a mood of agitation and unrest that dominates much of the remainder of the movement. Only towards the end does the placid opening theme return.

Some lighthearted relief comes in the form of the Menuetto. The main section’s grace and charm are suitably complemented by the dry wit of the trio section.

After Mozart’s death, the C Major Symphony was nicknamed Jupiter. Another sobriquet was “symphony with a fugue-finale.” The finale is not actually a fugue but a sonata form containing fugato (fugue-like) sections built on the five themes of the exposition: (1) the opening four-note theme; (2) the fanfare-like theme that immediately follows it; (3) the rising transition motive leading to (4) the sonata form’s “second theme” in a related key; and (5) a short, spiky countertheme to (4). Mozart’s method in the exposition is to present a fugato passage on a theme soon after it is first introduced. The development section concentrates almost exclusively on theme (2) in both the original form and inverted. The main body of the recapitulation is abbreviated and non-fugal, no doubt to allow for the full impact of the coda, the famous grand fugato that combines all five themes at once. Each is heard in every register—a heady kaleidoscope of “quintuple counterpoint.” This final passage is the crowning glory of this work—and perhaps of all Mozart’s symphonic works.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3

On January 25, violinist Karen Gomyo will join Bramwell Tovey, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra to perform a special program featuring music composed by Wolfgang A. Mozart.

KG_016 (1)THE STORY BEHIND: Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3

Title: Violin Concerto No.3 in G Major, K.216

Composer: Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756–1791)

When was the last time the Rhode Island Philharmonic played this piece: March 19, 2011

Orchestration: In addition to solo violin, the piece is scored for two each of flutes, oboes, horns, and strings

The Story: 

During the year 1775, Mozart was concertmaster of the Salzburg Prince-Archbishop’s orchestra. This meant that he played violin, led the orchestra, and no doubt was expected to perform occasionally as a soloist. Reflecting his position, the 19-year-old composer’s greatest accomplishments that year were his five concertos for violin and orchestra (K.207, 211, 216, 218, and 219). Oddly, he never again wrote a major work for violin solo.

The last three concerti came as a group between September and December 1775. Since their keys are G major, D major and A major, respectively, it is tempting to theorize that Mozart might have also intended a fourth concerto in E major, cleverly symbolizing the four strings of the violin (G-D-A-E).

The G Major Concerto’s first movement is freshness personified. Mozart offers his captivating themes in a compact orchestral segment before bringing in the soloist. The dramatic working out of the themes is appropriately completed by a segment in the style of an opera recitative.

“. . . Instead of an Andante there is an Adagio that seems to have fallen straight from heaven. . . .” Alfred Einstein’s statement about the second movement speaks for all of us who become breathless at the eloquence and depth of this teenager’s music. Part of the magic of the movement is the result of instrumentation: flutes (instead of the more usual oboes) and muted violins.

The finale is full of peasant-dance merriment and surprises. The central section has unexpected tinges of Gypsy spirit. Soon, completely unrelated, slower music seems again to have “fallen straight from heaven.” These may have been humorous musical quotations in the spirit of jolly Salzburg serenades. The concerto’s surprise ending is for oboes and horns only.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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MEET THE SOLOIST: Karen Gomyo, violin: All Mozart, January 25, 2020

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Karen Gomyo, violin

Performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3

January 25, 2020 at 8 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

 

Background:  Born in Tokyo, Ms. Gomyo studied in Montreal and in New York at The Juilliard School with famed violin pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. She currently resides in Berlin.

 

Highlights:

  • In May 2018, performed the world premiere of Samuel Adams’ new Chamber Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a piece written specifically for Ms. Gomyo
  • Participated as violinist, host, and narrator in a documentary film produced by NHK Japan about Antonio Stradivarius called The Mysteries of the Supreme Violin, which was broadcast worldwide on NHK WORLD.
  • Deeply interested in the Nuevo Tango music of Astor Piazzolla, and collaborates with Piazzolla’s longtime pianist and tango legend Pablo Ziegler.
  • Collaborated with guitarist Ismo Eskelinen on the release of Carnival, a recording of works by Paganini, Corelli, Vivaldi, and Locatelli on BIS Records.
  • Karen plays on the “Aurora” Stradivarius violin of 1703 that was bought for her exclusive use by a private sponsor.

Critical Praise:

  • “A first-rate artist of real musical command, vitality, brilliance and intensity”Chicago Tribune
  • “Her cadenza was especially stunning, with supernaturally clear high harmonics and passionate intensity” – 88.1 KDHX St Louis, MO
  • “Superhuman technical abilities and a dramatic flair that captivates audiences worldwide” – TheatreJones.com, North Texas.

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: The Magic Flute: Overture

On January 25, Karen Gomyo will join Bramwell Tovey, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra to perform a special program featuring music composed by Wolfgang A. Mozart.

 

wolfgang-mozart-9417115-2-402THE STORY BEHIND: The Magic Flute: Overture

Title: The Magic Flute: Overture, K.620

Composer: Wolfgang A. Mozart (1756–1791)

When was the last time the Rhode Island Philharmonic played this piece: February 22, 2014

Orchestration: The piece is scored for two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets, three trombones, timpani and strings.

Special Note: This piece will be performed by a combined orchestra including the Rhode Island Philharmonic and members of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra.  This marks the first time students have played on a Saturday Classical Concert with the RI Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Story: 

Scarcely more than two months before the death of Wolfgang A. Mozart, his last opera, The Magic Flute, was produced in a small theater in Vienna. The work was a collaboration between Mozart and his fellow Mason, Emmanuel Schikaneder. At the time, the Freemasons included artists, intellectuals and other “free thinkers.” Gatherings were outlawed in Catholic countries, but there was a limited tolerance around Vienna at the time.

Much has been made of the Masonic content of The Magic Flute, particularly about the ritualistic use of the number three. Mozart makes his “Masonic key” of E-flat (a signature
of three flats) the main key of the opera and of its overture.

The overture opens with a grand, three-fold fanfare. Following that, a mysterious introduction leads quietly into the Allegro. Listen now to the comic theme in the violins. Listen to it come back again and again. Mozart is building a fugue on this brilliant, comic main theme. After a while, Mozart brings back the three-fold fanfare of the opening, but in the rhythms of a Masonic initiation. Then he plunges his comic fugue theme into a “journey” that finally leads back to the home key, a re-affirmation of the main theme,
and an ending on three big unison notes.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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MEET THE SOLOIST: Gregory Dahl, bass: Handel’s Messiah, This Saturday

Gregory Dahl, bass

Performs Handel’s Messiah

This Saturday! 7 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

Bass DAHL Hi Res

Background:  From Winnepeg, Manitoba. Taught choral music in Winnepeg before becoming a full-time performer.

Recent Highlights:

    • Debut in the title role of Der Fliegende Holländer in a new production for Opéra de Québec.
    • Appeared as Hermogines in the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s second opera Hadrian with the Canadian Opera Company.
    • Reprised the title role in Rigoletto for Calgary Opera

Critical Praise:

  • “Dahl, who plays the malicious fool and protective father in the first act, is profoundly moving in the two following acts. With his compelling acting he renders Rigoletto into a touching and deeply human character” — Rigoletto, Opéra de Québec from Opera News Magazine
  • “Canadian Baritone Gregory Dahl was impeccable in the role of the underhand Scarpia. Manipulator at will, master of intrigues, he completely dominated the scene.”— Tosca, Opéra de Montréal from Le Journal de Montreal
  • “Dahl stormed the stage like a powder-keg ready to blow, barely containing his fury during Act II’s explosive E sogno? O realta.” — Falstaff, Manitoba Opera from Winnipegfreepress.com

MEET THE SOLOIST: Marion Newman, mezzo soprano: Handel’s Messiah, Dec. 14

Marion Newman, mezzo soprano

Performs Handel’s Messiah

7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, at The VETS, Providence

Annotation 2019-11-12 103801

 

Background:  Kwagiulth and Stó:lo First Nations, English, Irish and Scottish mezzo-soprano Marion Newman holds a Bachelor of Music in piano performance from the University of Victoria and a Master of Music with Distinction in vocal performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Professional Accomplishments:

  • Lead role of Noodin-Kwe in the world premiere run of Giiwedin, a First Nations opera by Spy Dénommé-Welch and Catherine Magowan
  • Featured five times as a soloist on CBC’s television broadcast of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards
  • Opened the 2002 Royal Golden Jubilee Gala at Roy Thomson Hall, where she performed the National Anthem with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Made her orchestral debut at the age of sixteen with the Victoria Symphony, not as a singer, but as a pianist, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto K. 488 in A Major.

Career Highlights:

  • Starred in I Call Myself Princess: The Story of Tsianina Redfeather, a new musical play by Jani Lauzon.
  • Debuted with Edmonton Opera as the Mother in Hansel and Gretel
  • Appeared in world premiere of Bramwell Tovey’s cong cycle Ancestral Voices with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
  • Starred as Da Ji in Dora Award-winning Alice Ping-Yee Ho and Marjorie Chan’s The Lesson of Da Ji with Toronto Masque Theatre

Critical Praise:

  • “In the title role, Marion Newman sings with rich, opulent tone, and her delivery pulses with the multiple meanings of her duplicitous existence.” – Opera News​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • “Newman continues to impress with both acting and vocal skills. Her beautiful voice has heft and power, but at the same time an innate sweetness. She modulates it extremely well.” – Opera Canada
  • “Newman possesses an extremely sensual quality to her portions, and showed masterful restraint where a lesser performer would have warped the vocal melody beyond recognition with pointless melismatic pomposity. She seemed to wrench the piece out of time altogether at some points, in some instances (as in the opening of the Passion) driving the words home so that they don’t even seem to be the rather ignorable prose that they really are.” – Northumberland View review of Handel’s Messiah