Conductor Christian Curnyn’s extensive experience with early music was evident in the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 performance of Messiah. Curnyn elicited a refined, pure tone from the ASO’s strings, with just a touch of vibrato giving warmth to sound. The opening Sinfony featured subtly nuanced phrasing, with excellent timbral control and cleanly executed ornamentation, and the Pifa featured careful, detailed articulation from the violins.
This performance also featured a stellar line-up of soloists, with soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell, tenor Henry Choo, and bass Morgan Pearse. As always, Macliver was utterly engaging. Her rendition of Rejoice greatly was brimming with sparkling energy, while she sang with pathos and a sweet tone in I know that my Redeemer liveth. Her beautiful phrasing in How beautiful are the feet was sensitively accompanied by the violins.
Campbell’s arias provided an excellent contrast to Macliver’s. Her rich vocal quality brought depth and poignancy to He was despised, which also featured very effective dynamic contrasts from the orchestra. O thou that tellest had a pleasing lightness from both Campbell and the orchestra and chorus.
Choo’s vibrato was perhaps a little overpowering in contrast to the mellow sound of the orchestra in Comfort ye and Every valley, but he brought great intensity and drama to his performance of Thou shalt break them.
Pearse brought a distinctly aggressive quality to Thus saith the Lord, and exuded emotion in The people that walked in darkness, which highlighted his exceptional dynamic range.
An augmented Adelaide Chamber Singers joined the ASO as the chorus for this performance. They handled the counterpoint with deftness and clarity throughout the work, with excellent balance and a powerful sound.