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Tobin Sparfeld
Choral Journal, June 2014

The twenty-four-voice ensemble performs energetically and with clean diction throughout the oratorio. The singers ably communicate the text with subtlety of phrasing and direction, such as a slight crescendo on “the mighty God, the everlasting Father,” and also in repetitive declamations that exist in the “Hallelujah” Chorus. Their reliable intonation is highlighted in chromatic movements such as “Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs” and “Since By Man Came Death.”

As good as the singers are, the Tafelmusik Orchestra is even better. They play with remarkable precision and brilliance, enhancing the overall dramatic effect. The soloists’ performances also contribute greatly to the quality of this recording. It should be noted that the ornamentations and embellishments in this recording are refreshingly new yet appropriate. Such moments create interest in this familiar work without distracting the listener from the dramatic narrative.

The recording quality is commendable.

Some recordings choose to perform Messiah where each movement is static, monochromatic, and the fate of the risen Christ is already ordained by the performers and offered as a virtuosic celebration of heaven’s grandeur. Tafelmusik’s recording, instead, presents Messiah as a theatrical work. Taurin’s attention to phrasing, subtlety, and overall dramatic line supports the humanist narrative and excitement arising from the realization of heaven’s promise being fulfilled on earth. It is this vision that distinguishes Tafelmusik’s from other Messiahs and makes it worthy of examination. © 2014 Choral Journal

William R. Braun
Opera News, April 2013

Under Ivars Taurins, Toronto-based Tafelmusik performs the oratorio…Tempo choices are persuasive…Ornaments and cadenzas are present but not obtrusive.

The choral singers are capable of anything that Taurins demands. Alto Robin Blaze offers a very appealing approach to slight inflections of rhythm. Tenor Rufus Müller goes from strength to strength…he shows both real technique and communicative powers. © 2013 Opera News Read complete review

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, March 2013

I consider this to be, for me, the overall best Messiah I’ve ever heard…

What characterizes this, for me, as a terrific Messiah is that it flows, has continuity…both singing and playing are highly detailed, lyrical, yet energetic when it counts, that the solos blend into the choruses flawlessly at every point, and in general that this performance combines splendid scholarship with a really great, rousing, we-actually-sound-as-if-we’re-enjoying-ourselves atmosphere.

…for me this is the performance of Messiah to own. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, January 2013

…we are given a performance that is just littered with infused dynamics and all sorts of tempo changes that are nowhere in Handel’s score; I find it extremely refreshing, and am very happy that these folks have the guts to impose their own interpretative ideas on us…Each of the soloists here are excellent, though Robin Blaze’s countertenor can be a little strident on high held notes. Otherwise he has very good technique and good power for the voice. I enjoyed this recording immensely… © 2013 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

WQXR (New York), December 2012

Although dozens of fine recordings of Handel’s 1741 oratorio are currently available…the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir makes a persuasive case for their latest interpretation…it features a moderately sized chorus and orchestra…delivering a full sonority in the big choral numbers and a reflective intimacy in the solo arias.

The orchestra playing here is crisp, taut and articulate. The quartet of soloists—soprano Karina Gauvin, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Rufus Müller and baritone Brett Polegato—is well seasoned. Standouts include Polegato’s beautifully shaped aria, “That people walked into darkness,” and Gauvin’s bright “Rejoice greatly.”

…it goes to show the staying power and versatility of this Christmas-season favorite. © 2012 WQXR (New York) Read complete review

Lisa Flynn
WFMT (Chicago), December 2012

The Best Christmas Recordings of 2012

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir present an intimate and stirring performance of Handel’s masterpiece. This recording of the full score on period instruments features a stellar cast of soloists—Karina Gauvin, Robin Blaze, Rufus Müller and Brett Polegato. Tafelmusik recreates the spirit and vitality of Handel’s own 18th-century productions. © 2012 WFMT (Chicago)

John Terauds
Musical Toronto, December 2012

Tafemusik Chamber Choir music director Ivars Taurins has been leading Tafelmusik’s annual performances of Handel’s evergreen 270-year-old oratorio for a generation, steadily honing the group’s historically informed performances into paragons of taste and individuality.

The ultimate success of a Messiah depends on the soloists as much as the orchestra and chorus. Tafelmusik struck vocal gold a year ago with brilliant Montreal soprano Karina Gauvin, British countertenor Robin Blaze, New York City-based tenor Rufus Müller and Toronto’s own magnificent bass-baritone Brett Polegato.

The people who walked in darkness truly did see—as well as hear—a great light when Polegato sang. We rejoiced greatly in Gauvin’s company. Blaze opened the eyes of the blind. And our hearts broke at Müller’s scornful rebukes.

The Tafelmusik Chamber Choir was beautifully balanced, the orchestra a burnished wonder of gentle texture and sharp rhythm.

All are captured cleanly on this album, which is remarkably free of coughs and other noises from the live cold-season audience, probably a sign of many hours of careful electronic editing.…this is as fine a period-instrument performance of Messiah as you are likely to experience anywhere in the world right now. Captured on two CDs and available through Tafelmusik’s new in-house label, this living, breathing piece of 1742 can make every Torontonian proud. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, December 2012

So why should you hear this latest Messiah, recorded live on December 14 to 17, 2011 at Koerner Hall in Toronto? Well, there are plenty of reasons. To begin with, this is an exceptionally smooth performance in which all the elements are well integrated, the product of a director and ensemble that have been doing their thing since Ivars Taurins found the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir in 1981. That includes a full quarter-century’s tradition of performing Messiah as an annual event. There is a nice balance between the 24 voices in the chorus and the number of instrumentalists, 24 plus continuo organ. The vocalists are all top-rate, too. Karina Gauvin is exquisite in the soprano arias such as “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion” and her wonderful, heart-melting duet “He shall feed us flock” with Robin Blaze.

The latter, in the alto role, is more satisfying than any counter-tenor I can recall hearing in this part. That type of male voice has been known to set my teeth on edge, something I happily did not experience when listening to his well-modulated voice with its graciously soft glow. It went well in the alto part, which, as Handel conceived it, carries so much of the message of comfort in this work. Tenor Rufus Müller is authoritative and direct in such key passages as the accompagnato “Comfort ye, my people” and the following aria “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted.”…there is much to savor here in the voices.

The big choruses such as “Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth” and “Worthy is the Lamb” are grand and glorious without overwhelming the sound of your teenager’s video games. © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta Read complete review

Hans de Groot
The WholeNote, November 2012

The new Tafelmusik recording holds up well. The orchestra and choir are excellent. As for the soloists, tenor Rufus Müller is very good, baritone Brett Polegato is outstanding and soprano Karina Gauvin is out of this world.

This recording is new…and it is also the first live recording of the orchestra. I hope that there will be many more. The achievements of Tafelmusik have been immense and further recordings should bring them to the attention of a wider audience. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review, November 2012

A performance as good as Tafelmusik’s is welcome at any time of year, and in any year…this Messiah is assembled from 2011 live performances conducted by Ivars Taurins, who is director of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir and who shows here that he can handle the orchestra…just as well as the voices.  Hearing Messiah on period instruments is always a pleasure, and Tafelmusik plays these instruments as if they are the most natural things in the world, with no apparent struggles or difficulties of adjustment or intonation at all. The four soloists are all very fine as well, all quite comfortable with period ornamentation, and with countertenor Robin Blaze having a particularly sweet and well-modulated voice. The result is a Messiah that can be enjoyed at Christmas, Easter, and anytime in between, before or after. © 2012 Read complete review

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