If you want to own one recording of Handel's Messiah , this hybrid Super Audio CD version of Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concentus Musicus Wien just might be it-Harnoncourt studied the composer's original manuscripts to craft a performance as close to the intention of the original as possible. And the sound just might make you break out a Hallelujah! chorus of your own!
This is an unusual performance of Handel's great Messiah. Harnoncourt always has something up his sleeve in his interpretations, and the results are often mixed, as they are here. Some tempi are oddly slow, others wackily fast, but that keeps us on our toes. The choral sound is very delicate and gentle--is this to denote piety? Whatever the desire, those who like their choral sound full-bodied are bound to be left befuddled by the lack of potency they'll hear here--the "Hallelujah" Chorus begins so modestly you'll think it is a rehearsal, but it grows in effect as it goes on. Very odd. Furthermore, the only really excellent soloists are soprano Christine Schaefer and baritone Gerald Finley; the others are good but peculiarly, like the chorus, lack profile. The recorded sound is glorious--there's not a note that's not clear--but there are plenty of finer, and more interesting Messiahs available. --Robert Levine