Music review: RSNO: Messiah, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Usually a Christmas favourite, this out-of-season Messiah sat well with the warm spring temperatures and Easter spirit. And it was an enlightened move to have the RSNO Chorus director, Gregory Batsleer, step out from behind the scenes to conduct the forces he has so transformed over the last four years.

The RSNO
The RSNO

RSNO: Messiah, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall ****

Indeed it was the chorus that provided the emotional heart to Handel’s oratorio. Taking them through familiar favourites such as And the Glory of the Lord and Lift up Your Heads, Batsleer kept the pace brisk with a jauntiness that moved the narrative along.

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The chorus displayed a wide dynamic range, from the hushed tones of Since by Man Came Death to their unbridled energy in the Hallelujah chorus backed by blazing trumpets and pounding timpani. But equally as powerful was Unto us a Child is Born, with the vocal surges on the words “wonderful” and “counsellor” full of expression.

The orchestra was also fleet of foot, with the strings sculpting the phrases with crispness, the harpsichord and organ laying down a solid continuo and the oboes sounding suitably ruminant in All we Like Sheep have Gone Astray.

There was a fabulous line-up of soloists in this well calibrated performance. Soprano Rowan Pierce, with her clear angelic tones, stepped in for Miah Persson, while Catriona Morison’s rich, velvety mezzo replaced the also indisposed countertenor Iestyn Davies.

The contrast between the two female voices was also echoed in that of Thomas Walker’s questing upbeat tenor and Ashley Riches’ dark and mysterious bass baritone contributions. - Susan Nickalls