Search - Handel :: Messiah

Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Christian
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1

You would think that everyone in the world owned a copy of Messiah by now, and that there would certainly be no need to record new ones very year. Wrong! Here's DG's 1997 entry, and it's a fine one too. The only reservatio...  more »


CD Details

All Artists: Handel
Title: Messiah
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 1
Label: Umvd Special Markets
Release Date: 4/16/1995
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Christian
Style: Holiday & Wedding
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 028944280425

You would think that everyone in the world owned a copy of Messiah by now, and that there would certainly be no need to record new ones very year. Wrong! Here's DG's 1997 entry, and it's a fine one too. The only reservation is the recorded sound, which seems to be somewhat congested at the climaxes, as though the chorus and orchestra were recorded in differing acoustic spaces. Otherwise, this is as fine an "authentic" performance as we're likely to get. --David Hurwitz

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CD Reviews

A top drawer version for authenticists and fans of same
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 12/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"People's preferences about Handel's Messiah are typically built on whether or not they enjoy the version being put forth. Paul McCreesh's performance, from the end of the last century, is the Foundling Hopsital performing version Handel may have known in his day. It substitutes certain women's voices -- and a countertenor in other recordings -- for certain arias a bass sings in traditional performances such as those led by Marriner and Colin Davis.

I think this is a five-star performance for fans of the authenticity movement even though I have a few quibbles -- the tenor overinterprets my favorite aria, "Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My People", and one of the sopranoes, I don't know which one, has an uncontrollabe vibrato in "He Shall Feed His Flock". In addition, the "Hallelujah" chorus hardly bursts forth from a big band orchestra to tumultuous singing by a 200-member choir; that's what you get in an authentic reading using a choir of 45 or less.

These few quibbles aside, I think this is an outstanding performance that gets a big boost from the passion and somewhat eccentric leadership of Paul McCreesh, whose Mozart C Minor Mass, released last year, had all the same qualities as this performance of Messiah. McCreesh clearly is not a pasty-faced authenticist trying to minimize everything or deliver the goods in as chaste an aural environment as possible, something I often find tangbile in Gardiner's readings of great vocal scores.

On the contrary, McCreesh leads the combined forces as if this is indeed a passion. He uses speeds both slower (Glory to God in the Highest) and faster than the norm (Surely He Hath Born Our Griefs) to express his vision. This is in keeping with the practice I've known among choral directors that have told the singers to be louder and quieter than the score markings recommend. This leads to an end product that, while not extreme, transcends the ordinary.

Anyone looking for an ordinary performance won't like this one. While traditionalists may not enjoy the goings on and long for the days of Beecham, no argument can be made this is a poorly performed or badly sung version. Quite the contrary; the singing is as spectacular as I've ever heard in Messiah. For an example, listen to exposition of Handelian counterpoint in "Lift Up Your Gates".

Fans of the version you sang in high school won't like the tempi selected throughout this performance, either. Still, McCreesh and his singers are outstanding throughout and everything is delivered in a wonderfully clear recording that lacks resonance and aura. I don't think this is because it was miked closely; I think it is the relative purtiy of approach one gets from a relatively small band and choir.

DG has reissued this in super audio sound; I haven't heard that one. I'd say the stereo is very good in terms of clarity and delivery. You can understand everything everyone sings and it's delivered in crystal clear acoustics. The recording, in stereo, is not warm and friedly, however, and hall ambience does not exist. Yet the signing is the important thing and that's done better here than in other period performances I've heard led by Parrott and Pinnock. I don't know if this is the best period recording available of Messiah but it's a good one nonetheless."
So Many Messiahs, So Little Time
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 10/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Yes, the Hogwood, Pinnock, Christie, and even Parrott Messiahs all have their merits, usually in the virtuosity of one or another of the soloists. Likewise, every performance of the Messiah has moments when the conductor falls asleep or the brass players are too absorbed in their crossword puzzles to drain their spit valves in time. There is no definitive Messiah.

The five soloists on the recording are easily separated into the sheep and the goats. (Have you ever spent any time with sheep or goats? Me, I find the goats far better company.) Bass Neal Davies and tenor Charles Daniels are stellar in every way - beautiful tone, agile dodging through the sixteenth note thickets, bang-on intonation, and articulate expression. Soprano Susan Gritton has the agility and the intonation, but lacks a certain edge of expressive intensity. Bernarda Fink and Dorothea Roeschman, to my ears, sing quite well in their ways but belong in a different ensemble in vocal style.

The big pluses in this performance are the chorus and the orchestra, and to my taste those are the most telling elements of the Messiah. Both chorus and orchestra are precise and crystal clear in phrasing and articulation. One can actually understand the words without knowing them by heart! One can hear the orchestral inner voices and savor the cadential chords. The original instruments at A415 are far sweeter and yet crisper than the assault weapons of a modern orchestra. It's like biting into a perfect frost-kissed Fuji apple after eating stale apple pie at Joe the Plumber's Diner. The tempos are often faster than in other performances, but since the singers have no trouble keeping up with their flurries of sixteenths, faster tempos are better, in that the phrasing of the music is more cogent. The Messiah is as much an athletic event as an act of cultural piety.

Conductor Paul McCreesh is, for me, "often a bridesmaid, never a bride." That is, I usually find much to admire in his performances, but I just as usually find others that I like even more. This time, at least for the winter of 2008, he gets to be the bride. But then, with the Messiah, there's always a hint of polygamy..."
Misses the mark-by a bit
Robert T. Martin | 12/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Maestro McCreesh's 1996 effort is a strong contender among the PI (period instrument) crowd. The orchestra doesn't screech, the chorus has weight, decent diction and color and the soloists have fine voices particularly the sopranos and the contralto.
McCreesh appears to see the Messiah as drama or perhaps as opera. For example, contralto Bernarda Fink's desire for us feel her pain in "He was despised..." is over the top and distracting. The apparent intent of the players to strive for effect and to shade every word robs the performance of genuine sincerity-this is a work of spiritual expression after all. Nevertheless I enjoyed the performance for what it was and the interpretative approach will appeal to many."