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Handel: Messiah

4.6 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 10, 1988
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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Trevor Pinnock meets with mixed success in this account of the Messiah with the English Concert & Choir and soloists Arleen Auger, Anne Sofie von Otter, Michael Chance, Howard Crook, and John Tomlinson, recorded and released in 1988. Its strengths are the strengths of the early-music movement in general. The size and distribution of the instrumental and vocal forces are optimal, which means that textures are clear and balances apt. Rhythms are nicely pointed, though often, in Pinnock's case, not quite well enough sprung. Tempos are well chosen; for example, "All we like sheep"--which turns out to be one of the set's best numbers--is a real bourré, and Pinnock animates it in just the right way. But the performance often seems workmanlike and unemotional, weighed down in too many instances by the humdrum work of the chorus. The alto section in particular, which is half male and half female, sings timidly and is constantly swallowing its entrances. Bass soloist John Tomlinson is a further drag on the effort. He has the right idea--that there's an Italian opera hiding behind all this biblical imagery--but his cottony sound is out of place, a misguided attempt to mimic Nicolai Ghiaurov. His usable range is less than a tenth (he croaks the low G's and F-sharps), and his diction is horrible. "Thus spake the Lord" is strangled, and when, in "The trumpet shall sound" Tomlinson gets to the words "we shall be changed," one can't help wishing that he had been changed too, right before the sessions started. --Ted Libbey
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Product Details

  • Performer: George Frideric Handel, Arleen Auger, Anne Sofie von Otter, Trevor Pinnock, The English Concert & Choir, et al.
  • Audio CD (October 10, 1988)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Archiv
  • ASIN: B0000057DB
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,935 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 22, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Handel's MESSIAH is one of the most recorded works in the CD catalogue and finding the particular performance that moves you is difficult. There is no 'one way' to perform this perennial favorite, though some will demand that the work be performed on period instruments and with the quality of tone and ornamentation assigned by scholars to Handel's time. Others want the drama of a Beecham or Ormandy performance. Some listen for the tiny choral ensemble while for others the massed chorus is most important for the drama. Some buy their version for the soloists, others for the conductor. Given all of these variations and having listened to most of the performances available on recordings, I inevitably return to this recording as conducted by Trevor Pinnock. In this recording the superb soloists (Arleen Auger, Anne Sophie von Otter, Michael Chance, Howard Crook and John Tomlinson) seem at one with the orchestral and choral forces, individuality is secondary to the overall effect of this very tender, celebratory, and dramatic oratorio performance. Just light enough to satisfy the toughest of the baroque aficiondos yet with enough intensity to make the more romantic period devotees happy. Some grateful additions are the use of the countertenor to sing some of the alto parts. Overall of these attributes conductor Pinnock has a firm grasp of the overall 'story' and effect. The flow of the work is steady right to the ending chorus. This is a very fine 'total thinking' of a masterwork.
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Format: Audio CD
Much as I have enjoyed recordings of Messiah by Beecham, (Colin) Davis, Mackerras, Hogwood, Gardiner and Christie over the years, Pinnock's is the version that I feel best captures the spirit and beauty of Handel's immortal masterwork. It provides the best of both worlds - combining the clarity and fluency of period instruments with the power and gravitas of the best English choral tradition. Soloists and chorus sing in accordance with historically informed practice but are not afraid to invest their performances with emotion and humanity.
Pinnock's tempi have been criticised by some for being too slow but I disagree. Other conductors treat the opening Sinfonia like the overture of a baroque orchestral suite. Pinnock emphasises the solemnity and portent in the music, underlining the momentous event that is about to unfold - namely, the arrival of the Messiah. The soloists are uniformly excellent without a single weak link; it's almost unfair to single out individuals but mention has to be made of Auger's radiantly pure singing in Parts I and III; von Otter's eloquent "He was despised" - the central jewel of this performance - and Chance's unique voice - IMHO warmer and more sensitive than any countertenor before or since.
The recording balance is near perfect - a warm but not over-resonant acoustic which lends a satisfying body to the big choruses, so that the cries of "Wonderful Consellor" ring out lustily while the Hallelujah and Amen choruses have a power that never fails to bring a tingle to my spine and tears to my eyes.
While I have enjoyed the fresh insights that new recordings may bring, I think I will always return to Pinnock's version to remind me what makes Messiah great and why I will always love it so.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is one of those few complete recordings of Messiah that I find have a consistently high quality throughout all the movements. Pinnock is on top form in this superbly-recorded DG performance, and his period-instrument orchestra does ample justice to this rich and expansive Handel score, with a keen sense of structure and pacing. It's true that some of the numbers might sound a shade underpaced, but this doesn't mean that the performance is mannered. Yet, he is greatly helped by a first-class team of soloists, frevent choral singing and sumptuous, clear recording in the Abbey Road Studios of Beatles fame.

The female soloists really shine in this recording, especially the late soprano Arleen Auger and her radiant voice. You can hear the bright tones to great effect in the optimistic arias Rejoice Greatly and I Know That My Redeemer Liveth. Yet there is a tender side to the voice, in her duet with Anne Sofie von Otter in He Shall Feed His Flock. Anne Sofie von Otter makes a superb mezzo soloist, with a superb and well-trained voice that allows her to sound generally better than she does today. The highlight of her contribution to this recording is a heartbreaking rendition of the epic aria He Was Despised and Rejected of Men. Among the male soloists, Michael Chance produces a velvety sound in his smooth-toned performance, especially in the difficult arias But Who May Abide and Thou Art Gone Up On High. Howard Crook makes a fine tenor soloist with the music he has, and John Tomlinson has a weighty bass sound. It's true that this bass sound could be more expansive, but he nevertheless gives a commanding performance of his key arias Why o The Nations and The Trumpet Shall Sound. The choral singing has fervour, but could do with more bite and presence.
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By A Customer on June 4, 2000
Format: Audio CD
For me this is perhaps the most satisfying of the modern(relatively!)readings.Of course, no one performance could ever really hope to capture all the myriad nuances of this masterpiece,and in the course of building a basic library of classical cds:I've somehow managed to acquire seven different recordings,and I wouldn't be without a single one of them! Yet ,it is this particular one that I find myself pulling down from the shelf most often,for the following reasons: 1.I've always felt that the aria,"He was despised" is the heart of this great oratorio.It acts as a kind of gravitational centre, that all the other arias and choruses reverentially revolve around.It's customary to lop off a fair chunk off it in most performances,but here it is rightly allowed it's full length,and believe me in Anne Sofie von Otter's stunning rendition,it's as close as you'll come to having your heart broken in music. 2.Arleen Auger(sadly missed)has always been one of my favourite sopranos,and certainly she is in heavenly form here.Maybe it,s perverse of me,but her rendition of " I know that my redeemer liveth"-excellent though it is-doesn't move me as I really expected it to.I can't explain why,and it's my only slight disappointment in the entire recording.Maybe I was spoiled by hearing Margaret Marshall,s unsurpassed reading under John Eliot Gardiner, the very first time I discovered Messiah.Still,there is much of her voice to treasure here,and no where more than in the quite gorgeous,"He shall feed his flock".No more perfectly poised and modulated performance of this duet(another laurel to Von Otter here)will you find on Earth, or in HeavenI'm willing to bet. 3.Michael Chance's "Who shall abide...Read more ›
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