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Led by Christopher Hogwood, the Academy of Ancient Music has made many renowned recordings of Handel's music-particularly the oratorios. The beloved Messiah heads up this 8-CD set, followed by Esther; La Resurezzione , and, making its return to the international catalog after an absence of several years, the 1985 recording of Athalia -with none other than Joan Sutherland in the title role! Recorded in London, 1979-85.
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Way back in the early 1980s, I fell in love with the recordings of Christopher Hogwood with the Academy of Ancient Music. His period interpretations of the Baroque composers were charming, and the performers that surrounded him brought something fresh and new to Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell and other Baroque and early classical composers. The first Hogwood recording I ever purchased was the Messiah included in this set, and it remains one of the finest interpretations of this work in the catalogue.
Messiah: The one feature of this recording that makes it unmistakably one of the two or three best recordings of Messiah on the current market is the singing of the soloists. Every single solo or duet is executed with flawless perfection. Period. That's right. The two sopranos, Judith Nelson and Emma Kirkby sharing the soprano solos, Carolyn Watkinson delivering a wonderful "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion," Paul Elliot, Tenor, and David Thomas, bass/baritone - all of them make this the set to buy for the solo singing. Not to say the choir shirks their responsibilities at all. The Christ Church Choir, Oxford Cathedral is absolutely perfect. Using boy sopranos, it doesn't have the power that an all adult choir would have, but discussing that would take us into an apples and oranges comparison that really serves no purpose here. If you want a different choir, you have John Eliot Gardener, McCreesh, or Stephen Cleobury with the King's College Choir. While those versions are outstanding from a choral perspective, and some even have moments of outstanding solo performances, nothing...Read more ›
I bought this, solely for this particular version of the "Messiah". That's the only thing I've listened to so far, and it's worth everything I paid just for that. Someday I will get around to listening to the rest of it. It's nice to have all that music on hand. It comes in a little cardboard clamshell box, and all of the CD's are cased in a little paper case, stacked inside the clamshell box. All that music stores much more concisely that way. But it is a fairly cheap kind of wrapping.
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Introduced to Handel's oratorios some years ago through (what else?) the Messiah I grew curious about this music and purchased Solomon (John Eliot Gardiner) some years back. I could not believe the beauty of the music and was looking for more when I came across this set on Amazon. Although I already had this recording of Messiah I purchased this set since it was the most cost-conscious way of owning the others here and also because I was familiar with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music from other recordings in my library. All are fantastic, but Athalia is a real stand-out. Terrific sound and performances throughout. Others have complained of no libretti but I usually listen to this with the lights out so that's not an issue for me. If I do want to review the libretti or learn more about the pieces I look it up on the Internet. Absolutely beautiful music.
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