’Twas two weeks before Christmas, which means, all around, G.F. Handel’s “Messiah’’ is apt to be found./ Behind Martin Pearlman, Boston Baroque was the latest, last weekend, to take up the yoke./ With period instruments, playing and style, the group has been mounting the work for a while./ And after three decades, it’s still the same quest: a “Messiah’’ of period-accurate zest.
This writer, when last he heard Pearlman’s rendition, made bold to perceive some fatigue in that mission./ But this year’s edition had éclat to burn, infusions of thoughtful dash most every turn./ It still was like Pearlman’s “Messiahs’’ years past: It still gave each number a danceable cast./ It still scaled the orchestra down, lean and clear; it still was the fastest “Messiah’’ you’ll hear./ But also were more hints of charm than before, more bounce at the edges, more lilt to the fore./ Much of the joy was the chorus’s doing: in excellent form, the group always pursuing/ finesse and precision and diction and flair, all rendered with effortless, rigorous care.
The tenor, Keith Jameson, poured out fine-grained ease, his prophecies bright, clear, and eager to please./ Andrew Garland, the baritone, brought forth more steel, a stern preacher armed with a voice that could peal./ (“The trumpet shall sound’’ coursed with memorable style from Garland and trumpeter Robinson Pyle.)/ Ava Pine, the soprano, attentively fashioned an elegant cleanness, but carefully rationed./ While singing “If God Be for Us’’ she gave flight to her top notes, which bloomed for the first time all night./ Julia Mintzer most seemed to invent a persona of lively dramatic intent./ Her dark, chesty alto worked hard to project, but her manner brought prime operatic effect.
Curmudgeons might wonder at going to hear the same oratorio, year after year./ Enthusiasts welcome the comforting skill that regular revisits no doubt instill./ Boston Baroque’s early-music M.O. has become so established, the annual show offers seasonal succor to both frames of mind: predictable, yes, but predictably fine,/ proficient in ways both refreshed and the same that both camps might well have been moved to exclaim/ as the chorus rang down their grand, fugal “Amen’’ on this year’s “Messiah’’: “They’ve done it again.’’
Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.