What the National Symphony’s “Messiah” felt like, closing out a year like 2021

Posted on: December 22, 2021

Gianandrea Noseda conducts the National Symphony Orchestra during a past performance at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Photo: Scott Suchman/NSO

“How long had it been since I’d last seen a chorus of close to 60 singers bending the risers above an orchestra filling a stage?” writes Michael Andor Brodeur in Friday’s (12/17) Washington Post. “How long since I was among concertgoers … impatiently awaiting the return of the Messiah, in this case Handel’s? With Christmas and more than likely a touch of the omicron variant in the air, Thursday’s [National Symphony Orchestra] performance of Bach’s magnificent Magnificat and Part I of Handel’s three-part ‘Messiah’ oratorio felt pulled between two poles: the exuberance and beauty of these two extraordinary pieces of music, and the caution and uncertainty that continues to distance our embrace of it…. Fortunately … Gianandrea Noseda and his orchestra of 29 players brought light and subtle colors … to works that the wrong hands can render too heavy.… The [masked] University of Maryland Concert Choir … also sounded beautifully balanced…. [For] the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus … we stood for it—as though we were saluting it, remembering it, maybe even mourning it a little. In the context of the Messiah, ‘Hallelujah’ is a celebration of a new beginning, but after a year like this, it also made for one hell of an ending.”