Reviews

BOOK OF PRAYERS 2019

★★★★★
Niels Rønsholdt's 'Book of Prayers' became a captivating experience in Christian's Church in Copenhagen.
Niels Rønsholdt has with courage and fresh ideas composed a work whose text is based on phrases and posters [...]

[...] at the Copenhagen premiere [...], the Golden Days festival managed to unite such talented ensembles as Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir and Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen.

[...] the English text worked excellent when the 16 excellent singers in Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir started the nine movements.

[...] With a strong and thought-provoking paraphrase of the old genre of music [the oratory], Niels Rønsholdt has succeeded in illuminating a crucial political event many now-living people still remember.

Peter Dürrfeld / Kristeligt Dagblad (Danish Daily), Sep 12 2019
Read the full review from the paper edition here

THE MESSIAH, HOLMEN'S CHURCH 2018

♥♥♥♥♥
Hallelujah for a beautiful 'Messiah': We can barely wait for the English orchestra to return to Copenhagen.
Mogens Dahl’s version of the ’Messiah’ exuded discreet melodiousness and intense bel canto.

Comfort. The English tenor, James Way, let the first words of the night emanate from nothing. Everything was intense, but quiet and slow. The strings undulated unobtrusively. The harpsichord rustled equally quietly in the back of the sound image. Wayne's voice grew in strength, the temperament of the music gained gravitas. And then we were off – and, for the next two and-a-half hours, neither the orchestra, the choir nor the soloists looked back.

Mogens Dahl's version of the ‘Messiah’ sounded really good this year. Discreet, clean, light and simple. The musicians of the English Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment had brought their normal, accurate harmony to Copenhagen and the four young soloists aroused more than ordinary joy. The musicians, the choir and the conductor maintained the style of previous years, and it was accomplished and convincing.

Was something missing to create a measure of resistance? Something surprising in the middle of the intense listening to the beautiful sound? Perhaps.

This was about simple beauty
The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is an orchestra which likes to do the unexpected to well-known works, and usually does so with enough insight and knowledge that they are able to change common perceptions of music. However, this was not their agenda with the ‘Messiah’ and Copenhagen. This was about simple beauty.

In that sense, Mogens Dahl's Chamber Choir with just 16 singers was a perfect collaborator for the orchestra. They both cultivated the simple and slim ideals of sound, where they only went wide a few times to provide greater effect. Even the famous Hallelujah choir that end the 2nd part sounded intimate and intense, rather than violent and overwhelming.

It was with a twinkle in the eye and a dramatic rubber face that the 27-year-old contra tenor Jakub Józef Orlinski carried the contralto part among the four soloists. Choosing a contra tenor rather than a deep female voice lent the voices a different balance, because the voice of the Polish Orlinski had a really very dark spicy tone, and this left the Danish Denise Beck to be the one providing the light. She has previously participated successfully, so it was no surprise how well her clear, clean voice suited Handel's arias. However, that does not subtract from her performance.

The Canadian bass baritone handled the soloists' deepest arias beautifully. When the darkness befell the Christians of the music, Gordon Bintner let it spread with a power and a focus that was almost frightening. He was a really cool singer, and he also managed to improvise a bit with the melodies towards the end.

The pain and the melodiousness
I would be surprised if the orchestra and Mogens Dahl would not be able to also provide us with a convincing new contribution next year, which also challenges all the many standardised performances of the ‘Messiah’ that fill the churches during December?

It was beautiful and meaningful hearing the orchestra painting tonal picture when the text encouraged it. When they created crackling fire with lightning-fast strokes or created a closed and dark timbre when the night of the Bible verses covered the world.

But why not deal with some of Handel's paradoxes, too? Why not do something with the soprano's sweet and naive melody, for example, when she sings harshly about the worms devouring her body?

They have a good grasp of the pain and the melodiousness. However, many of the Bible fragments also hide a good deal of madness when you listen to them in 2018. We know the ’Messiah’ well enough that Handel can withstand some more resistance.

After the many words and melodies, finally, only a discrete floating mass of sound was left. A long, stretched-out ‘amen’ that wound its way between singers and musicians, as if this Christian world of text and tones was melting away into nothing before a few, final, harmonic nails were struck as a farewell salute.

The wait for the English orchestra to return to Copenhagen to provide their addictive 18th-century delicious sound is almost unbearable.

Henrik Friis / Politiken, December 8th 2018
Read the entire review from the Danish paper edition here 

★★★★★
The ''Messiah'' with flight and colour
Mogens Dahl performed Handel’s immortal oratory with dramatic fervour in Holmen’s Church, Copenhagen

[…] With Mogens Dahl and his chamber choir, you get the real thing. And the rumour has spread gradually. This year, the fact that all was sold out for the two concerts in Holmen's Church could be announced well in advance and, although new singers were found among the four soloists, the direction was the same as in 2017: an excellent interpretation with flight and colour, agilely conducted by maestro Mogens Dahl himself and with a minimum of pause between the varied recitations, choir passages and pure orchestral pieces – and, again this year, a total absence of dragging music.

The beautiful melodies are delivered like pearls on a string and remind one that Handel was an extremely productive opera composer before he, quite reluctantly, but to the delight of generations of music lovers, threw himself at the oratory genre.

The dramaturgical colouring was emphasised by the young singer quartet, not least the young, Polish contra tenor Jakub Józef Orlinski. Generally, many would probably prefer a female alto's warm tone for this part (for example, like last year’s Swedish Karolina Blixt); However, on the other hand, Orlinski showed tremendous glow and impact in his sometimes somewhat free vocal displays and his intensity fit in well with the whole.

The Tenor James Way provided a powerful experience throughout, boyish in appearance and with a virtually naive gaze into the church room, following the overture, when we first heard the human voice in the work. It happened with the two words that once lit the flame of inspiration in Handel: Comfort ye! In a biblical perspective, those two words are a warning of blessing, and here they became, in a narrower sense, a warning that we would experience a ‘Messiah’ that would live up to our joyful expectations.

The Canadian bass, Gordon Bintner, had ample authority and vocal power to face all the challenges, even the probably greatest, at the end of the aria ‘The trumpet shall sound’. The English Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment encircled his promising words with the trumpet's devoted efforts, responded to by a miraculous echoing effect by the first violins - one of numerous intense moments in a completely stylistically consistent performance.

Denise Beck was the only woman in the quartet and the only one who was also in last year's performance. She lit up the performance again with her clear, natural singing, not least in the aria ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’.

One of Handel's many strokes of genius is to let these heartfelt words be the first after the mighty Hallelujah choir - when the audience in Holmen's Church followed the tradition of standing up during the roar of choir and orchestra.

This evening, we were given a full measure of biblical drama side by side with heartfelt religiousness – and that is exactly what makes any authentic and respectful performance of the ’Messiah’ a gripping experience.

Peter Dürrfeld / Kristeligt Dagblad, 12. december 2018
Read the entire review here (in Danish)

Delight at the Doomsday trumpet
Baroque. Handel’s ‘Messiah’ sails through the city and becomes a revelation in the right hands.

[...] The Late Baroque of Handel’s Messiah effortlessly lets its hightide of hymns fill the carved, wooden interior [of Holmen’s Church]. Experiencing the praises of the rapturous work performed by as exquisite a group as the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment surrounding four sublime solo singers was part of giving the oratory's peculiar mix of rigor, sweetness, and ecstasy its renewed stamp of eternity.

With delicate pastel colours and playful precision, the Orchestra of the Enlightenment plugs into the time of softened gravity that characterises the 1740s. Here, in each their crafts, the composer Handel and the painter Tiepolo left the heavily varnished High Baroque astern. The fact that, for Handel, the new enveloping movement of Romance waited ahead is another story altogether.

The four soloists all had the glow of energetic people in the style of the mythological aspirants who abound in Handel’s operas. In those works, the arias are juicier because entanglements of love accumulate. The soprano, Denise Beck, was in a splendid dress while the contra tenor, Jakub Jozef Orlinski, the tenor, James Way, and the bass, Gordon Bintner, all looked like the spin doctors of an elven queen in their modern outfit.

The ‘Messiah’ is a three-act performance, just like the operas ‘Alcina’, ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Orlando’ to name the bull’s-eyes. The greatest outbreaks of pain are found in the second act. Alcina complains in an aria of almost 14 minutes. In the ‘Messiah’, the alto aria ‘He was despised’ in the second part about the humiliation of Jesus is the breath-taking sorrowful pit. Along with the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus at the end of the second part and the authoritative bass aria ‘The trumpet shall sound’ in the third part it is one of the most famous parts.

Burdened by legendary female altos’ celebration of ‘He was despised’, one just barely looked askance at the elegant, Polish contra tenor, Orlinski, until he revealed a vocal power that lit up the room like prisms. On the other hand, the authoritative Canadian, Gordon Bintner, competed with David Blackadder's dizzying virtuoso doomsday trumpet, a resurrection command so frightening that one might consider staying underground.

Basically, this is where the audience should logically stand and not, as has become the custom, during the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus which should nevertheless evade the mortals.

The aria engraved on Handel’s Westminster Abbey tomb, ‘I know that my redeemer liveth’ gave Denise Beck the coolest marble life imaginable. An entirely Rococo cherub was the English tenor, James Way, as the fiery soulful pulse of the oratory. Everything was held together by conductor Mogens Dahl, who with the 16 musicians of the orchestra and 16 singers of the choir painted the prophecies, visions and ecstasy by which we must simply let ourselves be overwhelmed. Composed in three weeks at a time when you could get things done.

Peter Johannes Erichsen, Weekendavisen 14/12 2018
Read the entire review here (in Danish)

★★★★★★
“So new, so compelling”
– Søren Schauser / Berlingske, Dec. 11. 2017 (On Messiah)

♥♥♥♥♥
”Both mild and mighty”
– Thomas Michelsen, Politiken, 10. december 2017 (On Messiah)

★★★★★★
“Mogens Dahl’s unparalleled “Messiah””
“The choir itself is perhaps the loveliest on an evening such as this. The very few singers that be immediately come to the fore with characteristic and really beautiful voices.”
– Søren Schauser, Berlingske Dec. 5. 2016.

★★★★★
“Oh, Lord, how good!”
“Sven-David Sandström’s new Easter piece is beautiful music, and it is performed by a world class choir.”
“The performance is a major success for the artists involved… And, first and foremost, it is a success for the conductor Mogens Dahl with his 18-strong chamber choir, whose idea it all was.”
– Søren Schausser, Berlingske Tidende. About Sandström/Holtze’s Passion of St. John 2016

★★★★
“… a sumptuous performance… Many moments that took one’s breath away.”
“Mogens Dahl’s Chamber Choir unfolded itself to superbly demonstrate a new Nordic passion at top international level.”
– Thomas Michelsen, Politiken. About Sandström/Holtze’s Passion of St. John 2016

★★★★★
“A work that has every chance to be the 21-century’s musical take on one of mankind’s most seminal stories.”
– Peter Dürrfeld, Kristelig Dagblad. About Sandström/Holtze’s Passion of St. John 2016

“Luminous singing”
– Tobias Lund, Sydsvenskan. About Sandström/Holtzes Passion of St. John 2016

“It was with charitable sensitivity, but without going over the top, that the 16 singers in Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir touched our hearts.”
– Per Rask Madsen, Information. About Messiah with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment 2015.

Scandinavian functionalism meets genuine British baroque. […] This was simple, beautiful and redeeming.
– Thomas Michelsen, Politiken. About Messiah with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment 2015.

“Nothing less than a sensation”
– Camilla Lundberg, Sveriges Television. About Nordic Mass

★★★★★★
“It’s choral singing at the highest level here.”
– Magasinet Klassisk. Review of Nordic Mass

 “Such vocal dexterity is truly astonishing and well worth exploring and relishing.”
– Malcolm Riley, Gramophone. Review of Nordic Mass

“Sacred North is a splendid manifestation of what 20 professional singers can lift to the heavens of Nordic musical art.”
– Peter Johannes Erichsen in Weekendavisen

“With this collection of Nordic sacral choir music, Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir elevates all the way up into the singing’s premier league. Here is a Danish choir in a league of its own and with a unique tonal potential. “
– Christine Christiansen in Information

Mogens dahl kammerkor under opførelsen af et klassisk a capella nummer med dirigent Mogens dahl

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