Haydn / Handel 19 November 2015

Haydn Handel insetAfter the rousing opening chorus, with some thrilling brass playing, of Handel’s 1743 Dettingen Te Deum, I found myself playing ‘Spot the well-known Handel melody’ game....
Handel Dettinge Te Deum 
Handel Organ Concerto 4 No.2 in B flat major 
Haydn Harmoniemesse 
It was unfortunate that this concert coincided with the official switching on of Exeter’s Christmas lights and the opening of the Christmas Market on Cathedral Green, and a Thursday evening in November may not be the favoured time to turn out for a concert in a chilly cathedral. Whatever the reason, audience numbers for this event were rather low, which must have been disappointing for all involved in an evening of fine music-making. 
The 120-strong choir was admirably supported by the Exeter Chamber Orchestra – a group of local professional players. It would have been good to see their names listed in the otherwise excellent programme. 
After the rousing opening chorus, with some thrilling brass playing, of Handel’s 1743 Dettingen Te Deum, I found myself playing ‘Spot the well-known Handel melody’ game, he being no stranger to the idea of ‘cut and paste’! With the exception of a couple of rather ‘fluffy’ entries, the choir coped well with some challenging choral writing, for example, the contrapuntal ‘Thou didst open the kingdom of Heaven’, and appeared to enjoy a work that might not necessarily be in the choral repertoire’s Premier League. 
Handel’s Organ Concerto Op.4 No.2 completed the concert’s first half, with David Davies (somehow finding time out from his duties as Acting Director of Music at the cathedral this term), on sparkling form as the soloist. 
The Harmoniemesse of 1802 saw both Haydn and the choir at their best. Here was the mature composer pouring his soul into his music and the choir clearly loved it! Under Andrew Millington’s firm baton, they produced a wonderfully joyful sound where required, but also displayed great sensitivity to the text, right from the opening bars of the Kyrie. Haydn would not have been disappointed with the Exeter Philharmonic Choir. 
Liz Williams 
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