Wednesday, March 24, 2010

He Was Despised

Handel's Messiah is not liturgical music or even Church music broadly speaking but rather popular concert music. Nonetheless, it has many moments of great inspiration when performed properly - which to me means reducing the theater aspects of the piece in favor of letting the purely religious dimension speak for itself.

For Lent, this version of "He Was Despised" illustrates what I mean. Virginia Warnken of Trinity Wall Street provides a warm, humble, and deeply sincere reading of this beautiful piece. You find in this performance something resembling a liturgical comportment - it is high art channeled and disciplined by piety. When she returns to the main theme at the end, she offers subtle embellishments that are all the more powerful because she has up to then avoided them. All singers should note too how she is able to sustain long notes in a deep register while never letting the underlying fire diminish even slightly. The result is powerful, compelling, moving.

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