Press Room

Trinity Wall Street releases major new recording of Handel’s “Israel in Egypt”

The Trinity Choir and period-instrument Trinity Baroque Orchestra have earned renown for their stylistically fresh, emotionally fervent performances of early music, particularly that of Handel. The New York Times declared that the forces of Trinity Wall Street perform Messiah “not as a comfortable holiday tradition but as something closer to a sacred rite.” Heralding the start of Trinity Wall Street’s 2012-13 performance season, the Musica Omnia label has released a studio recording of the Trinity Choir and Baroque Orchestra’s performance of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt conducted by Julian Wachner, the inaugural Director of Music and the Arts at Trinity Wall Street. The three-CD set, which hit stores on September 15, presents the final 1756 revised version of Israel in Egypt, Handel’s most elaborate “chorus” oratorio. Along with the 1756 score in its entirety, the set will include the oratorio’s original Part One from the initial 1739 performance as an appendix – making this release the most complete version of Israel in Egypt on the market.
Handel’s Israel in Egypt is an oratorio that tells a tale of Jewish bondage and escape drawn from the biblical Psalms and Book of Exodus. The score comprises 28 massive double choruses, linked together by a few bars of recitative, with five arias and three duets interspersed among them. Reviewing the 2010 live performance of Israel in Egypt at Trinity Wall Street, the New York Times singled out the “marvelous series of choruses depicting the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea and their aftermath. These splendid studies in tone painting were all superbly performed by the Trinity Choir, obviously well prepared by Mr. Wachner, a composer and choral director of considerable experience.”
About Handel’s oratorio, Wachner says:
Israel in Egypt is chorus after chorus after chorus that tell a fantastically vivid story of the Exodus. It was a revolutionary piece when it was first presented in 1739. Messiah conveys the grand story of Christianity without concentrating really on specific details and drama. Israel in Egypt, on the other hand, tells a very specific story from a specific part of the Hebrew Bible. It’s so action-packed that it’s like an episode of The Wire, and the instrumental writing is filled with color and energy like a film score, evoking swarms of locusts, waves of the ocean and so on. Oratorios should be dramatic – they’re like operas without staging and scenery, and Handel created the genre. He was able to tell a story by highlighting the words with music. Before Mozart, Handel was the great master of this, and he was able to speak to human experience and the universality of our emotions. Before we started working on this, the Trinity Choir had never sung Israel in Egypt, and as we rehearsed, you could really feel the excitement of discovery that we all shared. This oratorio was the perfect vehicle to start our relationship together. And the Trinity Choir is such a great group singers, individually and collectively. For me, it was like driving a Maserati!
Trinity Wall Street
One of the oldest, largest, and most vibrant of all Episcopal parishes, Trinity Wall Street is located in the heart of New York’s financial district, where it has created a dynamic home for great music. Serving as director of Trinity’s Music and the Arts program – as well as principal conductor of the Trinity Baroque Orchestra & Choir – Julian Wachner also oversees all liturgical, professional, and community Music and Arts programming at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. The music at Trinity ranges from large-scale oratorios to intimate evenings of a cappella singing and chamber music to jazz improvisation. Live performances at Trinity are webcast live at
Trinity Choir
The Trinity Choir is the premier ensemble of the Music and the Arts program at Trinity Wall Street. The Choir leads the liturgical music during Sunday services and performs in concerts throughout the year. The group has also made world-class recordings for the Naxos label. It is both a beloved church choir, singing favorite Anglican hymns and historic sacred music, and one of New York City’s most acclaimed professional vocal ensembles. 
Particularly well-versed in major compositions of the Baroque and Classical periods, the Trinity Choir’s repertoire also includes Swedish and Estonian choral compositions and works by Britten, Brahms and Howells, as well as pieces by Arvo Pärt and other contemporary composers. The New York Times has praised the Choir as possessing “voices so pure they suggest a seraphic chorus beyond the human sphere.”
The Trinity Choir has recently released Haydn: The Complete Masses, an eight-disc Naxos boxed set, in collaboration with the Rebel Baroque Orchestra. Twelve Handel masses and his Stabat Mater were recorded over a nine-year period in Trinity Church. The Choir has also released Naxos recordings of Handel’s Messiah and Christmas from Trinity. Trinity Choir concerts are broadcast on WQXR (105.9 FM).
A highlight of the Choir’s season is its annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah. With a profusion of Messiah performances in New York City concert halls and sacred spaces each holiday season, the Trinity Choir’s offering stands out. The New York Times headlined a review of the Choir’s 2005 performance as “A Messiah to Beat in a Season Bursting With Them,” praising the “pure” voices of the soloists from the Choir.
Trinity Choir has performed New York premieres of such works as Dominick Argento’s The Masque of Angels and William Albright’s oratorio, A Song to David, with the composer hailing the premiere as the work’s “finest, most accurate and moving performance.” Other premieres included Iain Hamilton’s Epitaph for This World and Time and Jean Guillou’s Allen. In addition to its active concert series at Trinity Church, the Choir has appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters and the Tribeca Film Festival, which invited the Choir to perform Arvo Pärt’s Passio in a mixed-media collaboration with Paolo Cherchi Usai’s film of the same name.
Video profiles of choir members and guest conductors can be found on the Trinity Wall Street website. Other videos include a history and appreciation of Handel’s Messiah and the story of a music camp started in post-Katrina New Orleans by several Choir members. A rich archive of past concerts can be found online as well.
Julian Wachner
Born in Hollywood, California, and raised in New York City, Julian Wachner is one of North America’s most exciting and versatile musicians, sought-after as conductor, composer and keyboardist. As the inaugural Director of Music and the Arts at New York’s historic Trinity Wall Street, Wachner serves as principal conductor of the Trinity Choir, Trinity Baroque Orchestra and contemporary-music ensemble Novus NY. This is in addition to overseeing Trinity’s numerous concert offerings, museum expositions, dance and theater performances and literary readings, as well as educational and outreach initiatives in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Wachner is also music director of the Kennedy Center’s Grammy Award-winning Washington Chorus, as well as principal conductor of Opera McGill in Montreal. Wachner has also made memorable guest appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony, the Handel & Haydn Society, Glimmerglass Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, New York City Opera and the Boston Pops. A Baroque specialist, he was founding music director of the Boston Bach Ensemble and the Bach Académie de Montréal, besides serving as artistic director of International Bach Festivals in Boston and Montreal.
The New York Times pronounced his Trinity Wall Street debut “superbly performed” and, later that season, noted that “he succeeded admirably” in presenting his first Messiah in New York City. Of his interpretation of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, according to the Boston Globe, “there was genius here and no mistaking it.” The Washington Post declared a recent performance “exhilarating,” commenting: “Julian Wachner knows how to draw maximum drama from a score.” Following his account of Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Inquirer observed: “Wachner built the music, line by line, as an architectural edifice, serving both the music’s emotional and more purely aesthetic elements.”
Wachner made New York City Opera history when he was selected as both conductor and composer at the company’s annual VOX festival of contemporary opera. His original music has been variously described as “bold and atmospheric” (New York Times), “jazzy, energetic and ingenious” (Boston Globe), and “a compendium of surprises” (Washington Post). E.C. Schirmer publishes his complete catalog, comprising more than 80 titles.
An award-winning organist, Wachner’s solo recital at the Spoleto Festival USA featured an improvised finale that inspired one reviewer to conclude: “This stupefying wizardry was the hit of the recital, and it had to be heard to be believed” (Post and Courier, South Carolina). And as a concert pianist, in his recent Kennedy Center all-Rachmaninoff performance, the Washington Post noted that “Wachner dazzled with some bravura keyboard work, both in the rhapsodic accompaniments to the songs and…in the highly virtuosic transcription of the Dances.”
Wachner’s recordings are with the Chandos, Naxos, Atma Classique, Arsis, Dorian, Musica Omnia and Titanic labels.
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