G.F. HÄNDEL: Messiah, HWV 56
Eugenia Boix, soprano
Marta Infante, mezzosoprano
Albert Casals, tenor
Elías Arranz, baritone
Cor Francesc Valls
Franz Schubert Filharmonia
Paul Agnew, conductor
We all know that Handel’s Hallelujah is one of the great hits of classical music, but what is difficult to understand is that other fragments of the Messiah have not become indispensable, too. It is an immense, brilliant, spectacular work, but also very difficult to interpret. When it premiered (280 years ago), it was an instant success and has been performed constantly around the world ever since. This is a work that has never gone out of style.
Handel had had great success with his operas and with the instrumental music he had written for the various kings of England whom he served, but from the age of 50 he devoted himself almost exclusively to oratorios: he wrote about thirty, but The Messiah was the greatest of all. It is not only a work of praise to Christ, which explains the excellence of the life, the death and the mission of the Messiah on Earth, but the work has completely surpassed the exclusive heritage of the Christian faithful and has become the universal heritage of the music faithful. It has that double quality unique to masterpieces: on the one hand, it contains secrets and new readings for the music purists, and on the other, beauty and attraction for the average listener. It actually fulfills a spiritual function that, if it does not bring us closer to God, at least brings us closer to Art.
Biography Paul Agnew
Internationally renowned artist and experienced professor, British tenor and conductor Paul Agnew has left his mark on all major international stages as a specialist in 17th and 18th century music and as a performer for the alto tenor roles of the French Baroque.
After studying at Magdalen College, at Oxford, Paul Agnew became the most desired performer for countertenor roles in the French Baroque repertoire. He was acclaimed in leading roles in Rameau’s operas (Platée, Les Boréades, Les Indes galantes). He is regularly invited to festivals such as the Edinburgh festival, the BBC Proms or the Lufthansa Festival. He frequently sings with groups such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Birmingham City Symphony Orchestra, the Komische Oper Berlin Orchestra, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Enlightenment Century Orchestra and the Gabrieli Consort and Players. He collaborates with directors such as William Christie, Marco Minkowski, Tom Koopman, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, and Emmanuelle Haïm.
In 2007, Paul Agnew’s career took a new turn when he began conducting certain projects for Les Arts Florissants. From 2011 to 2015, he undertook a full cycle of Monteverdi madrigals, a project for which he conducted nearly 100 concerts throughout Europe and made three recordings for Harmonia Mundi, the first of which won the Gramophone Award in 2016. He has conducted Les Arts Florissants in productions such as the ballet Doux Mensonges (Paris Opera), a new production of Platée de Rameau (Theater an der Wien, the Opéra Comique in Paris and the Lincoln Center in New York), and will create a new production of L ‘ Orpheus as a part of Claudio Monteverdi’s 450th anniversary celebration, not to mention many concert programs. He is the artistic director of the Festival de Printemps-Les Arts Florissants, which takes place in churches throughout the Vendée region, since its creation in 2017. Since 2019, Paul Agnew is co-musical conductor of Les Arts Florissants.
As a guest conductor, Paul Agnew regularly conducts orchestras such as the Staatsphilharmonie Nürnberg, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra from Seattle, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Akademie fur Alte Musik from Berlin.