hardly needs an introduction. Known the world over, it is a masterpiece of baroque music and the subject of legion recordings over the years.
Having listened to a number of high quality of recordings - including those of Polyphony and Stephen Layton, The Sixteen and Harry Christophers, and the Chapel Choir of New College, Oxford - and with several professional-level performances of the Messiah
under my belt, this disc has to live up to some very high standards.
In short, it did. Oh my goodness did it ever!
The opening Sinfonia is a bold and vigorous explosion of expressive and well-tuned sound, and I was instantly engaged. The orchestral playing over the whole disc is light, nimble and musical. Ornamentation is in plentiful supply but always tastefully employed. At the start of each movement I was drawn into a passionate new sound-world, and the intensity never waned. The accompaniment of the choir was also brilliant. I never felt there to be a struggle for dominance between the instruments and singers. They work together perfectly.
The singing is also highly accomplished - musically sensitive and with some of the best English diction I have ever heard from a non-British ensemble. This, for me, makes all the difference. The phrasing and lines are strong, with ornamentation again tastefully employed. Something I found odd about a number of the movements was that much of the music was sung by a vocal quartet as opposed to the full choir. This, at times made the choral line a little thin. This was nothing to do with the quality of the singers - very high indeed - but as these choruses were composed for a larger ensemble, there were times when having a quartet seemed inappropriate. Anyway, the full choral ensemble was extremely strong, so I saw no reason why they did not participate in the entire disc.
Listening to this CD was an intense emotional experience as I was transported from the deepest despair to unbridled jubilation. I was disappointed only by the fact that this was not a complete recording of the Messiah
. I wanted more!
An absolutely exquisite performance, and a must-have for any collection - brava!
2. And the glory, the glory of the Lord
3. And He shall purify
4. For unto us a Child is born
5. Glory to God in the highest
6. His yoke is easy
7. Behold the lamb of God
8. Surely, He hath borne our grieves
9. And with His stripes we are healed
10. All we like sheep
11. He trusted in God
12. Lift up your heads
13. Let all the angels of God worship Him
14. The Lord gave the word
15. How beautiful are the feet of Him
16. Let us break their bonds asunder
18. O death, where is thy sting?
19. But thanks be to God
20. Worthy is the Lamb