‘Tis The Season…

… when I have The Messiah on loop playing on my compewder, and I exhort you to join me in listening to the most compelling version of the magnificent musical devotional I know.  This one is presented by Collegium 1704, the Prague ensemble committed to playing Baroque music on Baroque instruments interpreted as closely as possible to the way that music was played at the time of its creation.  This performance and setting are to my eye and ear flawless.

I have loved The Messiah since I was but a little boy, playing it over and over on our portable record player and eventually owning perhaps a dozen versions to play on my grown-up stereo.   This version is by far my favorite, its tempo and expressiveness are lively and overwhelmingly joyous.  How could it not be, it is the grandest story of all wherein Creation is reconciled to the Creator through sacrificial Redemption?  The sprightly pace in some passages might be a bit startling to those of you who have had to endure the multitude of turgid Messiah performances over your life.  All to often it is performed as a dirge rather than a joyous celebration.

But this performance is spectacular in every way.  The setting is Divine, the musicianship is virtuosity itself, the choral ensemble is angelic, and the soloists are all captivating, especially alto Delphine Galou who is radiantly sublime.  I could listen to her singing the Federal Budget.

In watching the performance I am always impressed with the Colloquim’s commitment to period musical instruments, I find myself looking for details of the ancient tools they are using.  While those in the viol family appear to have not changed in 300 years, the same is not true for the brass and woodwind clan.  Some of them look downright odd.

An instrument I wonder about is the one directly in front of the conductor, it looks vaguely like a roll-top desk.  I find myself wondering if it is one of the console pipe organs from Taylor and Booty, just down the road from me.  We have toured their facility two or three times as a family, it is an amazing facility producing other-worldly instruments.

I forget whether this is Mr. Taylor or Mr. Booty who was giving us this tour in 2007, showing off one of their console pipe organs.  The guts are packed tighter than a 1972 Boss 428 Mustang engine compartment, the one where you have to loosen the brake master cylinder to get to the spark plug on cylinder #8.  Elder dottir is a pipe organist and really wanted one of these babies.  All it took wa$ lot$ of moolah.  Lot$.  Hence, she no has.

Much like a wooden boat, which has to look a particular way but whose most important feature is being water tight, so to are musical instruments; they have to fit the human body (or in some ases an architectural surrounding)  but still sound lovely.