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Handel - Messiah (Complete) (3 CD Set) / Hunt, J. Williams, Spence, Minter, J. Thomas, W. Parker, PBO, McGegan Import

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, December 7, 1992
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Editorial Reviews

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When it was first issued, this was billed as the "do it yourself" Messiah, since the presence of alternate versions of many of the arias and choruses allowed you to assemble any of the many different versions that Handel conducted in his lifetime. That gimmick aside, this performance really doesn't stand up against much of the "original instrument" competition--particularly Trevor Pinnock, The Sixteen, or Harmonia Mundi's own later version with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants--perhaps the best of all. --David Hurwitz
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Product Details

  • Performer: Lorraine Hunt, Janet Williams, Patricia Spence, Drew Minter, Jeffrey Thomas, et al.
  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Baroque
  • Conductor: Nicholas McGegan
  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Audio CD (December 7, 1992)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Harmonia Mundi France
  • ASIN: B0000007D4
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,206 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Nicholas McGegan has conducted some excellent Handel recordings in the past and is something of a specialist in this repertoire. However, his recording of "Messiah" leaves something to be desired. There is a lack of feeling that pervades the entire piece -- everyone does a thoroughly professional job, but it ends up sounding like just that: a JOB.
It's really a pity, because McGegan goes further in his scholarship than do other conductors by including nearly all the variants which Handel wrote through the years for different performances of the oratorio. So we get not only the 4/4 version of "Rejoice greatly" but the lilting 12/8 version as well (which I prefer). There are four versions of "But who may abide" and "How beautiful are the feet of them," three of "Thou art gone up on high" and a soprano version of "He was despised." The list goes on.
The performance itself, however, simply cannot compete with other recordings. The choir has a light, pleasant sound but is placed too far back, and the sound as recorded is boxy with very little "air" around the voices. All the soloists are capable and unoffensive, but uninspired as well. Only Lorraine Hunt really comes to life singing the alternate soprano version of "He was despised," giving a reading both luminous and heart-breaking.
If you are looking for a really fine period-instrument recording, I can recommend three: John Eliot Gardiner's, Trevor Pinnock's (with superb soloists in Arleen Auger and Anne Sofie von Otter) and Paul McCreesh's more recent version with one of the strongest line-ups of soloists I've heard in a long time. Also worth looking into is Richard Westenberg's recording with Musica Sacra, easy to overlook.
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Format: Audio CD
This recording of Handel's Messiah is not only my favorite of the oratorio --- it is my favorite baroque music CD of all. The recording is super clear, the performance is professional and uncluttered, and the interpretation is simply elegant. Sure, history buffs out there might like the extra tracks to investigate the various revisions Handel went through. Personally, I rarely use them. But I do find the vocal interpretations to be easily digested without the normal bravado which accompanies soloists who like to go "over-the-top". If you want a Messiah you can sing along to, or if you want to practice with your own choir --- this is the recording for you. Furthermore, I find McGegan has done an excellent job of finding the somber and reverent Handel among all the glitzy copies of this piece. No, this Hallelujah Chorus won't blow you away like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's version, but the softer, gentler moments are beautifully presented here with true baroque intonation and phrasing. For me, this performance sounds much more authentic and true to Handel's original score than others on period or reproduction instruments. Because of the 3 CD format, the performance isn't hammered and quick stamped like other 2 CD sets. You can actually play it on 3 successive evenings as was originally intended. The slower tempos allow the harmonies of the instruments to correctly marry with unrushed vocal solos. The Messiah is not about how loud you can blow into a valve-less horn or how duck-like you can make your oboes squawk; it's about whether or not the pastorale can transport you to heaven, ... and this one does !
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Format: Audio CD
Very polished "no-nonsense" performance in the period style. Some will appreciate the unmannered way in which it is performed others will interpret this as being a bit dull. If you want a "complete" set in terms of it's various versions this is the performance to get. (It is available on THREE cd's which includes variations which can be programmed into your CD player) As a performance it's icy cool . As a recording the sound is very dry lacking in bloom.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this recording of Handel's Messiah based on a recommendation made by a friend of mine, but I was a little disappointed when I heard it. In my humble opinion, the soloists are far from being great, although they do a fine job in almost all recitatives and arias. The choir has a beautiful sound but is very very weak: is it possible that we are talking about 40 people? The good point about this recording is, that it is REALLY complete: different versions of the same arias, recitatives and choruses, which lets you reconstruct Handel's original performances. Still, I would say: go for other renderings of this work if you are not interested in having 4 versions of the same arias (although I must say, it's really interesting to know them all).
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Format: MP3 Music
George Frideric Handel's epic oratorio "Messiah" is truly one of the greatest single works of any kind in the history of Western music, both for the fact of Handel's own genius, and also because it deals with the birth, life, death, and eventual resurrection of Jesus Christ, a man whom more blood has been spilled over than any single figure that ever lived in the whole of human history. But it is a work that has been interpreted over the centuries in an endless amount of ways, from period instrument performances and practices to modern chamber orchestras, symphony orchestras, and, most controversially of all, Sir Thomas Beecham's unbelievably oversized, almost Wagnerian 1959 Royal Philharmonic recording, which takes excess to ridiculous heights. Indeed, it may have been Beecham's radical "reinterpretation" of this work that helped spawn the period instrument revolution itself, with purists literally fulminating over it.

To the end of period instrument performances of this epic work, there are dozens to choose from, ranging from Sir John Eliot Gardiner (with his English Baroque Soloists) to Trevor Pinnock (English Concert) and Christopher Hogwood (Academy of Ancient Music). But if I had to choose a "Messiah" in terms of a form where speed and tempo markings sometimes seem painfully rushed, then I would choose a decidedly American period instrument ensemble, in this case English-born conductor Nicholas McGegan and his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This orchestra is perhaps the best-known period-instrument orchestra here in the United States, having made incredible recordings of Baroque-era music, and venturing into the Haydn/Mozart/Beethoven Classical era in recent times.
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