Review: Messiah at Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral

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David Price and the cathedral’s choirs have created a fine Messiah tradition in Portsmouth – initially pre-Christmas, now pre-Easter.

Here a full house heard the kind of performance of Handel’s choral masterpiece that gives authenticity in music-making a good name.

Period instruments from Birmingham Conservatoire’s Capelle Baroque Orchestra were played with a lightness of touch to match Dr Price’s lively, often skipping rhythms, and soloists with cathedral connections were able to dovetail with the choirs as well as soar above them.

Alexandra Stevenson’s lovely soprano was as compelling in the urgent drama of ‘There was with the angel’ as it was comforting in the serenity of ‘He shall feed His flock’ and ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’.

Edmund Saddington, a late replacement, found lyricism even in the profoundest depths of the bass part – and alto Paul de Plessis-Smith, although weaker in his lower register, and tenor Oliver Walker-Jones were no less stylish.

All the singers responded with precise but never fussy feeling to key words such as ‘darkness’, ‘despised’ and ‘death’ – and made the final ‘Amen’ a joyous extravaganza.