H&H @ 200
Last night Chris & I went to opening night of the Handel & Haydn Society‘s 200th season.
What a show! The opening piece, Toccata from Orfeo, had trumpets and horns playing from the balcony. It was followed by Handel’s Coronation Anthem No. 1 , a piece that has been used in every British coronation since 1727 when it was composed for King George II (Chris found it familiar from seeing recordings of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation at some point in the past). It was followed by a wonderful performance of Bach’s Singet dem herrn ein neues Lied, something I had wanted to hear after reading Gardiner’s book about Bach. The featured work in the first half was Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, definitely exciting even if they didn’t set off live fireworks inside Symphony Hall.
The second half featured Vivaldi’s Summer with Aisslinn absolutely ripping it up on violin while simultaneously leading the ensemble. The audience showed it’s appreciation with a standing ovation, and when she tried to unobtrusively slip back into her place as concertmaster for the next piece, another round of applause.
The concert closed with a selection of choruses from Handel’s Messiah including the Hallelujah chorus, which was the final piece in the first performance in 1815. Before starting the Hallelujah chorus Harry Christophers invited the whole hall to stand and join in.
It’s amazing to think that they’ve now been going for 200 years. Of course it’s also amazing what Christopher Hogwood did to recreate the institution almost 30 years ago. It’s sad that he died just a couple of weeks ago and missed this opening of the 200th season.