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Handel: Messiah ~ Harnoncourt Hybrid SACD - DSD

12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, November 1, 2005
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

1. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; Sinfonia: Grave - Allegro moderato
2. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; Comfort ye my people (Accompagnato)
3. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; Ev'ry valley shall be exalted (Air)
4. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; And the glory of the Lord (Chorus)
5. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; Thus sayth the Lord (Accompagnato)
6. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; But who may abide ( Air)
7. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; And He shall purify (Chorus)
8. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Air)
9. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; For behold, darkness shall cover the earth (Accompagnato)
10. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; The people that walked in darkness (Air)
11. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; For unto us a child is born (Chorus)
12. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; Pifa
13. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them (Accompagnato)
14. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; And suddenly there was with the angel (Accompagnato)
15. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; Glory to God (Chorus)
16. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion (Air)
17. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; He shall feed His flock (Duet)
18. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 1; His yoke is easy (Chorus)
19. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 2; Behold the Lamb of God (Chorus)
20. Messiah, HWV 56; Part 2; He was despised (Air)
See all 47 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Performer: Concentus Musicus Wien
  • Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
  • Composer: George Frederick Handel
  • Audio CD (November 1, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: RCA / Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
  • ASIN: B000BDGWC6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,615 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By drdanfee VINE VOICE on December 7, 2005
Format: Audio CD
One comes to this new SACD performance of Handel's Messiah with high hopes. Conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concentus Musicus Wien have a well-deserved buzz for being musical pioneers who blazed new and interesting trails in the early music, period performance, and period instrument movements. One of the more interesting period instrument Messiah's has long been Harnoncourt's earlier effort, captured on red book 16-bit CD.

A glance over the four soloists raises our hopes further. Soprano Christine Schafer has just the silver bell voice that can ring out joy in Messiah's arias, a possible equal of one of my great favs, Elly Ameling, or another fav, Arlene Auger. Tenor Michael Schade, ditto. One expects a lot of him just on recorded reputation so far. Will he stand tall in the heraldic line that includes singers like Richard Lewis, Philip Langridge, John Aler, Jon Vickers? Mezzo Anna Larsson steps up, with the memories of really great altos hanging in the balance - the likes of Janet Baker, Yvonne Minton, Anna Reynolds, Anne Sophie von Otter, Helen Watts. Finally, we come to bass baritone Gerald Finley. He, too, might stand in honor of a lineage that has included the likes of Gorgio Tozzi, Gwynne Howell, Bejamin Luxon, Nathan Berg, Alastair Miles, John Cheek, John Tomlinson, Justino Diaz - and one of the great recorded treats, Bryn Terfel in the Chandos / Collegium 90 recording.

No recording of Messiah can fail to take account of the chorus. The Schoenberg Chorus have done very fine work on other recordings - including a cherished Harnoncourt-led (earlier, with Gruberova) Haydn Creation that still sits on my fav shelf. One wonders how they will fare here?

Well, here is the score card, with comments.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Elliot Richman on November 23, 2006
Format: Audio CD anyway I'm listening and enjoying immensely what I'm hearing and I'm thinking well if this is what all the fuss is about big deal I mean everybody's criticizing Harnoncourt's choices of tempi and soloist assignments and whatall well what's the big deal it still SOUNDS great and like what else is there really besides overall sound and satisfaction and the soloists are good (contralto's not bad) to great (soprano Schaefer and tenor Michael Schade and baritone Finley) and the Arnold Schoenberg Chorus is just peaches 'n' cream I mean smooth as silk and unbelievably beautiful and the playing of Concentus Musicus Wien is second to none and Harnoncourt's been doing early music since probably before I was even a listener and anyway there's plenty of ways to skin the proverbial cat so how far off can this Messiah be and like I said it SOUNDS just superbly good and is TOTALLY satisfying and then finally the Hallelujah Chorus starts...and it's like pianissimo with soft and rounded edges and WHOA!!! So THAT's what all the commotion is about? Well in my humble opinion it's great. It's a fresh look at an old warhorse of the highest order by a supreme executor of early and choral music styles performed exquisitely well and recorded beautifully and it WORKS!

Seriously, I LOVE this recording. From the tenor's first unusual utterance in "Comfort ye" to the pianissimo opening of the Hallelujah Chorus it is deeply satisfying. There are a number of high-quality Messiah recordings available in standard and early music versions, large and small ensemble versions, and with operatic singers and with chamber singers; to designate a single one as the best is somewhere between pointless and impossible. For conventional Messiah performance style, this is clearly not the choice.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Opera Fan on December 12, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I like this recording despite some interpretative details that have proved mannered on repeated listening. With Harnoncourt leading the performers, there is always a clear interpretive point of view whether I agree with the immediate choices or not. I remember an interview some years back in which Harnoncourt explained his gentle treatment of the end of "His yoke is easy." He said that the typical near screaming of references to easy yokes and light burdens is not in keeping with the text. So agree or not the interpretation flows from a point of view and not generalized "performance practice". There are times, however, when the strongly rhetorical renderings of the airs create too great contrast with the rather traditional choral work. As an example, the emphatic "But who may abide" is followed by a comfortably ambling performance of the chorus "And He shall purify". Although not as pronounced as Jacobs lightening of effect, "For unto us" displays a similar mincing of the choral acclamations, particularly "Prince of Peace". I suppose one can argue it reflects the text. Perhaps taking his cue from Handel's reported "vision of heaven" to his servant, Harnoncourt begins "Hallelujah" in a almost dream-like state, holding back the fireworks for the conclusion. The listener will have to decide for themselves whether it works or not.

The Schoenberg Choir is clearly a virtuoso ensemble and makes a very strong contribution to the proceedings. Unfortunately, in common with many German speaking choirs, they sing in accented English that can be a little irritating. The English "s" sound (is, his, this, etc.) usually comes out as the double s sound in "hiss". Vowels are sometimes distorted as well.
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