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Handel: Messiah
George Frederick Handel, Karl Richter, Hedwig Bilgram
Handel: Messiah
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #2

A heavy, ponderous, and generally unappetizing performance, the fault for which lies not so much with Karl Richter, but with the slack playing of the London Philharmonic and the less than enthusiastic singing of the John A...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: George Frederick Handel, Karl Richter, Hedwig Bilgram, Anna Reynolds, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Edgar Krapp, Helen Donath, Stuart Burrows
Title: Handel: Messiah
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Dg Imports
Release Date: 11/6/2002
Album Type: Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Baroque (c.1600-1750)
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPCs: 028945302829, 400028378356

A heavy, ponderous, and generally unappetizing performance, the fault for which lies not so much with Karl Richter, but with the slack playing of the London Philharmonic and the less than enthusiastic singing of the John Alldis Choir. It's strange to think how much better this might have been had Richter recorded it with his usual forces in Germany, but for whatever reason, things just didn't come together this time around. --David Hurwitz

CD Reviews

Richter's Messiah Outweighs Them All
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have been acquainted with Messiah since I was about 13, and have both sung and conducted it numerous times. Of course, I have also heard any number of recordings (some quite good) of which Richter's London version stands out by a mile!Richter himself grew out of a Baroque tradition to which there was still a touch of romantic expressiveness, but never so that it took away from the Baroque character of the music. Often in an effort to play Baroque music "correctly" one often underplays the music - too often the Overture can be far too lightweight, like an appendage to the score. Richter's rendition is rich and expressive, the fugal section sturdy and secure; laying a solid foundation for the music to come. Diction and enunciation is particularly good (compare with the sometimes poor, slurred diction in Robert Shaw's Alanta recording), and articulation of choral and instrumental forces is coordinated superbly. Somtimes Richter's tempos are slower than usual, but for me this shows a flexibility in approach which does not concede to standard norms. In particular, the aria and chorus "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings" is taken much slower than usual, yet every note can be clearly heard, and the expressive effect in the chorus is outstanding.Richter also makes use of some interesting score variants, such as replacing the chorus "Their Sound is Gone Out" with a tenor recitative on the same words, which I found most refreshing. The aria which follows, "Why Do The Nations?" is blazing and fiery; Richter well suits the musical rhetoric to the words with a passion.Richter's ear and sense of intonation were vastly superior to most all other conductors who have recorded this work (including Shaw's), and one feels one is really hearing the work for the first time. If any recording of Messiah could be considered "definitive", this has to be it!"
Celia J. Berveiler | 01/22/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Karl Richter's interpretation of Handel's Messiah is as close to perfect as you can get in this life. All soloists are outstanding, but you don't know what goose bumps are until you've heard Stuart Burrows sing "Comfort Ye" or Anna Reynolds sing "He was despised." I did not know her name until I purchased an audio tape set of this recording. When this ABA aria goes into the B section, she turns on more color than I've ever heard in an alto on the words "from shame."

I gave the audio tapes to a friend and replaced them with a CD set. My only quibble is that it breaks in a somewhat awkward place between CD1 and CD2. Given the perfection of this performance, that cavil pales into insignificance. If it is ever issued on three CDs, one for each part of the entire work, I'll replace my 2-CD set. By the way, my friend called the audio tapes "perfection.""
A Revelation
Roger W. Wood | Jacksonville, Florida | 03/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I could not disagree with "A Customer" more. I wonder what he ate before he wrote his impressions. And Hurwitz's comments show he probably thinks that period-piece Gardiner is the definition of good Bach listening! (Not to diminish Gardiner, for whom I have the greatest respect, a very good musician and conductor, who did his best with Bach, but simply had not lived it like Karl Richter, who knew whence Bach came and why Bach was composing, singing, and playing!)

To the contrary, Karl Richter's Messiah is simply in a class by itself. The best one by far I have ever heard in my 50+ years of listening to "a lot" of Handel. The performance is full-throated Messiah. So many finesse this great work (but maybe that critique can be fathomed only after listening to Richter's!). Richter knew how to conduct Baroque music. He was the greatest living exponent of the Leipzig music tradition, a tradition that excelled in expresivo. Richter lived and breathed baroque like few ever did. The LPO sounds almost like a large chamber orchestra. The solists, in my view, were refreshingly excellent, and the choral singing was definitive. What a pleasure to hear a performance where people know what the hell they are doing. This one takes you with them on the Messiah journey. You simply hitch a fascinating ride and go with them as they do it! This performance illuminates the text, and the text the music. Bingo! Great ride!

Beg DG/Universal to re-release this performance. Otherwise get it from anywhere you can. Just think. You may not have listened to the best Messiah yet unless you've heard this one. Such a pity Richter died in his middle 50's. We were robbed of a great light on baroque music. Few walked and lived in the baroque tradition a la Leipzig like he.

Be glad if you can get this release. I have heard many fine performances of Messiah. What a pleasure to tell DG/Universal to re-release the real one, and what a pleasure to recommend one that you are going to keep if you hear it. This one knows where it is going, and the performers know how to do it. I can only agree with those who feel that Richter may have been the finest German conductor of Bach and baroque, period, in the 20th century. (Try one of his many recordings - get on and look under music/Karl Richter.) He did quite a few works by Bach's contemporary, Handel (some out of circulation like my copy of his performance of Samson). Personally I have a number of them. They are all sensational. Get this one. Cry to DG/Universal to re-release it by being a crescendo of would-be purchasers. And tell them also to re-release his great performance of Handel's Samson."