Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|George Frideric Handel, Andrew Parrott, Emma Kirkby|
Handel - Messiah / Kirkby · Van Evera · Cable · Bowman · Cornwell · D. Thomas · Parrott
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
It's no dishonor for Andrew Parrott that his respectable Messiah isn't at the very top of a crowded field. His Taverner Choir and Players give a brisk, clean performance, lacking perhaps a spark of excitement. The soloists... more »
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It's no dishonor for Andrew Parrott that his respectable Messiah isn't at the very top of a crowded field. His Taverner Choir and Players give a brisk, clean performance, lacking perhaps a spark of excitement. The soloists are variable: contralto Margaret Cable and bass David Thomas sing intelligently but sound dry; countertenor James Bowman's timbre and range don't really suit the arias for castrato he's been given to sing; Emily Van Evera sings her one aria nicely but has little else to do. Emma Kirkby and Joseph Cornwell, however, sing as well as any soprano and tenor ever to record Messiah--Kirkby's imaginative embellishments are a particular pleasure. Handel collectors should be interested in this recording, especially for Kirkby and Cornwell; newcomers to Messiah should investigate Hogwood, Christie, McCreesh, or Suzuki. --Matthew Westphal
A wonderfully clear and powerful performance - joyful!
Craig Matteson | Ann Arbor, MI | 08/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In December of 1980 I was part of a performance of Messiah for Handel conference here in Ann Arbor. Scholars came from all over the world to present papers on this work and we performed the piece with a very small chamber orchestra, soloists, and a chorus of about 24 singers. It caused quite a stir, but it was very fun to do.
There is scholarly precendent for such small forces. And in fact the massed armies style in vogue in the 1960s and even today was a 19th century cultural phenomenon. But we all know how much fun such a large ensemble can also be. The really neat thing is that this chorus does not sound small. What it sounds is clear and supple. You can hear the counterpoint and that is the point of this kind of music, isn't it?
Large groups can never have the clarity and fluidity of line that can be achieved with what amounts to a chamber ensemble. It bothers some (but not me) that the voices used even for the soloists aren't operatic in the style of the last two centuries. Well, Handel was an EARLY 18th century composer and the operatic voice was quite different then. Still strong, still flexible, but filling a hall that seated 5,000 wasn't necessary and didn't exist.
Anyway, scholarship or no, this is a wonderful performance based on what is known about a performance of this work in 1753. It is full of life and the soloists are terrific. I especially love Emma Kirkby for all kinds of reasons, one of them being she was the soprano soloist for the 1980 performance here in Ann Arbor. The style here is quite declamatory and more operatic than, say, the Hogwood recording from 1980 (although certainly not Verdi). There also seems to be an emphasis on using English vowels rather than Italianate singing vowels. You should also note that both the soprano, Emma Kirkby, and the bass, David Thomas, on this recording were also on the very different Hogwood 1980 recording.
The choruses are very clear if not as sharply defined or as pointilistic as other early music recordings. For example, the last chorus "Worthy is the Lamb" and the great fuguge "Amen" are full of power, drama, and majesty, however, the some of the effects of the entrances from the different sections that happen right on top of each other don't quite pop out here as they might have. But this is a small point. No single version of this work can include every possible interpretation. The work is too rich and the artists must make choices.
It is also interesting to note the selection of the soloists. Here we have two sopranos (with Kirkby taking different numbers than on Hogwood)and alto AND a counter tenor as well as a tenor and bass. Handel himself often switched around the numbers given to the soloists, and this recording is no different. For example, the solo before the last chorus "If God be for us" (here, "If God is for us") is sung by the alto Margaret Cable (whom I think is really a mezzo-soprano) and is often done by the soprano. And the usual alto, tenor "O Death, Where is They Sting" is here done superbly by the counter-tenor James Bowman and the Tenor Joseph Cornwell.
You should have this in your collection for its beauty and for its contrast to the "traditional" large ensemble performances. I hugely enjoy this version."
An intimate, introspective view of "Messiah"
madamemusico | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 08/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for a loud, powerful, exciting performance of Handel's "Messiah," look elsewhere. This is scaled to the kind of performances that took place in the small churches of Handel's time, and as such it has a more intimate feel, less "pressured" climaxes and a more cohesive flow than one usually hears in "Messiah" performances. Twenty years ago, I probably would not have liked this kind of performance, but since turning to Buddhism and hearing the "small, still voice within," I find that this kind of performance resonates perfectly with my view of the creator. You, however, are free to feel differently, but if you think you would like a performance of unparalleled transparency, lightness and airiness, this is the one for you. All of the soloists are really into this atmosphere, and Andrew Parrott conducts beautifully with a real sense of legato style. If not, there is always the Trevor Pinnock, Gardiner or Mormon Abersnackle Choir versions with their multitudes of voices and 21-gun salutes! ;-)
Simply the best
Michael | New Haven, CT USA | 02/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of more than a dozen Messiah recordings I've accumulated, this one remains hands-down THE BEST. The smaller choir delivers huge, clear sound without the muddiness or weight so common in performances by larger groups (e.g. MTC). The soloists are uniformly the *least* pretentious I've heard sing this piece - they allow Handel's simple embellishments to come through purely without distracting us with their own. "Clean" is the best descriptor that I can think of for this recording, and it's fitting given the work's simple, innocent subject."