Our Messiah Soloists: Max Riebl, Counter-tenor

Max riebl

In the lead up to our annual performance of Messiah on Saturday, 2 December, we caught up with each of our soloists to find out a bit more about them, their experiences with Messiah and what the coming year has in store them. 

Counter-tenor Max Riebl performs regularly as a solo artist, arranging alternative programs at festivals and contemporary venues. As a concert singer, he has appeared throughout Australia, Europe and the UK with ensembles such as the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, La Cetra Baroque Orchestra, the London Handel Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria. 

Max has performed in the Melbourne Recital Center and Hamer Hall, Sydney Recital Hall, the Forum, Basel Opera House, the Vienna Konzerthaus and Musikverein and the Royal Albert Hall. He studied baroque and early music at the the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Gerd Türk and currently coaches with Dermot Tutty in Melbourne. 

His baroque performance repertoire includes Handel's Messiah, Cesare and Dixit Dominus, John Blow's Venus and Adonis, Purcell’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day, Bach's Johannes Passion, Weinachstoratorium, St Matthew Passion, Magnificat and B-minor Mass, Vivaldi's Stabat Mater, Gloria and Nisi Dominus, Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri and Pergolesi's Salve Regina and Stabat Mater

Tell us about your experience singing Handel’s Messiah

I first sang the Messiah as a boy soprano in a baroque church in Graz, Austria, we also went to Salzburg and Vienna. It was with the K&K Philharmonic if I remember correctly. The first time I sang it as an alto soloist was in 2014 with Gloriana! I was a little surprised it took so long to get an invite, but worth the wait. 

What are some of the challenges in the arias that you sing?

I suppose creating  and sustaining the atmosphere for 'he was despised' is the great dramatic challenge. It can either be sung as a captivating, heartbreaking story or, if you get it wrong, the dullest eight minutes of your life. As for the other arias, I like upbeat tempos for most of the alto moments - to tell the story with energy and pace is my aim. 

Do you have a favourite moment in the work?

I like the unrelenting power and resonance you can put into "thou art gone up on high" and getting creative with the cadenzas for "but who may abide." 

What’s your approach to ornamentation - prepare or improvise?

I'm using some tips I picked up from baroque specialists, but also try to make them unique. I do plan ahead with ornaments. There's nothing more awkward than a shoddy embellishment. 

Does singing this music in a church feel different to singing it in a concert hall?

Yes I like singing it in church. It's a warm atmosphere and allows me to tap into the biblical narrative. I like both.

Briefly tell us about your plans for 2018

I'll be doing more shows between now and mid next year. My own solo shows; from a one man Cesare (in the works) to a return of the Great Pretender in several states, alongside a concert series with the ABO. Depending on how things are going in town I may go and take a good look at the US and do some international competitions, but for now I'd like to cement a place in the Australian music scene again for the next year if the work keeps coming. 

See Max at Messiah

St Peter's Eastern Hill choir, in collaboration with Gloriana chamber choir, presents G.F. Handel's Messiah on Saturday, 2 December at 7.30pm. Tickets are available online now or email.