Handel, Halls and the holiday fizz
It’s a tradition almost as familiar as stockings hung by the chimney or presents under the tree: Yuletide performances of Handel’s Messiah.
For its coverage of the National Symphony’s 58th annual Christmas performance the masterwork, NPR’s Morning Edition interviewed OBF artistic director designate Matthew Halls, who conducted this year’s Washington, D.C. performances. Soprano Keira Duffy was also interviewed. The segment aired Christmas morning, December 25.
Although it was his National Symphony debut, Halls estimates that he has performed Messiah several hundred times in various capacities. As he told NPR’s Geoffrey Bennett, Halls sees more than the religious nature of the work as cause for its great appeal.
“We’re a dance culture today, and a lot of our popular music is based on dance,” Halls says. “And that has resonance with the baroque because a lot of the music for the baroque was dance-inspired. So there’s this infectious, underlying rhythm behind most of the music in the Messiah, and I think that people really like that. They like the inevitability of the dance pulse and the way in which the composer manipulates the melody around that, and I think it’s that sort of underlying rhythmic motor, which Baroque music has, that gives it its fizz.”
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