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Handel - Messiah / Ameling · A. Reynolds · Langridge · Howell · Marriner

4.7 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 17, 1995
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Celebrate Christmas as people around the world have for more than 250 years! This is the 1743 London version of Handel's Messiah , performed by none other than Sir Neville Mariner and the Academy & Chorus of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

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Neville Marriner's 1976 account of the Covent Garden version of the score (1743), with the Academy and Chorus of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and soloists Elly Ameling, Anna Reynolds, Philip Langridge, and Gwynne Howell, is positively plush-sounding but nicely animated. I'd love to have this kind of string tone for, say, the Dvorák Serenade, but for Handel it may be just a bit much. --Ted Libbey
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Product Details

  • Performer: George Frideric Handel, Neville Marriner, Elly Ameling, Philip Langridge, Academy & Chours of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, et al.
  • Audio CD (October 17, 1995)
  • SPARS Code: ADD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Decca
  • ASIN: B00000427H
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,752 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
A first-rate recording at a cut-rate price. Excellent work from the chorus- well-blended and clean, but not antiseptic and dull. Likewise excellent work from the soloists: especially Ms. Ameling. She takes the more relaxed 6/8 version of Rejoice Greatly-- so it's not flashy, but she has no problem with the coloratura and spins out some amazingly long-breathed phrases. THe real draw for me is "Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart" and "Behold and See". While remaining within the boundaries of appropriate performance style and good taste, Ms. Ameling delivers these two forgotten parts of Messiah with an emotional appeal that is absolutely devastating: wrenching, moving, full of anguish and disbelief, but with economy, sensitivity, restraint and always with beautiful tone. It's absolutely unforgettable and it blasts the dust right off of Messiah: a work that is so often given a careless, pedestrian performance. Completely stunning- it will make you care about Messiah again.
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The singers in this recording deliver beautiful performances, both the soloists and the chorus - good phrasing, diction, and ensemble singing in lovely voices. However, I didn't realize before buying this CD that, as the liner notes say, "Neville Mariner's recording is based on the first London performance of 1743, and several numbers are markedly different from the more familiar later versions." Some pieces are sung by different voice parts, and others include bars of music that Handel cut or changed later. For example, the most disappointing part for me was "But who may abide," (sung by bass instead of alto, though that's not unusual) which completely omits the excicting prestissimo "refiner's fire" section that most of us are used to (and which I really enjoy)! This would certainly be an excellent historical recording for someone who collects or studies Handel's music - beautifully performed (though some parts seem unusually fast), and interesting for studying the development of Handel's composition - and it is still his sacred masterpiece. Plus it's an excellent bargain for a top-quality 2-disc recording. However, if you're looking for the most FAMILIAR Messiah, perhaps this isn't the one for you. I opted for the excellent Chaconne (Chandos) recording by Richard Hickox instead, also with Philip Langridge, and my favorite Bryn Terfel.
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Format: Audio CD
First of all, what the other online reviewers here fail to realize is that this is Handel's 1743 Covent Garden premiere Messiah score , NOT the "final" version. So, those looking for the familiar choruses, solos, etc. will be very disappointed and should probably seek another recording.

Though much of the score is the same, much of the score is very different as this was "a work in progress." One can tell the differences beginning with the tenor aria "Ev'ry Valley," until the final chorus "Worthy is the Lamb." One may even wonder why Handel choose to alleviate some of the score (most notably "How Beautiful Are the Feet" which here is a duet between alto and soprano with a rousing chorus. The aria in it's present version is quite dull in comparison). However, Handel scored based on available forces, and it is documented that Handel continued to "tweak" the score until he died.

Tempos are brisk, as well they should be. Messiah was nearly destroyed by the late-romantic conductors that thought it would sound better with a full symphonic orchestra and choruses "of a thousand." What remains is a wall of noise with all the nuances destroyed. We are, after all, talking about Baroque music. This ASMF 1976 recording is at the helm of the Baroque revival of period tempos, ensembles, and the return of vocal ornamentation.

The orchestra is in its usual flawless form in this recording as is Lazlo Heltay's fine singers. The solosits do a fine job, though Ameling, at times, has some strange vowel sounds (she obviously was not yet skilled at singing in English). Howell is the strongest of the soloists.

For overall beauty of sound and dramatic intensity, this is the ultimate recording!
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This is not your usual Messaih. It is the first London version of 1743. Therefore several numbers are markedly different from the more familiar versions usually performed today and almost incised upon our memories and minds. There are cuts, additions and scorings for different voices. The Bass air no. 6 lacks the alto section. The usual duet no. 20 for Alto and Soprano, ( He shall feed his flock) is here only as an Alto aria, etc. There are many other variations and cuts and additions with respect to the usual presently performed versions. For my tastes the Christie recording (on Harmonia Mundi) is the definitive version (for the soloists)(on period instruments), along with the Parrott/ Taverner choir version on Virgin (for the overall well-balanced and extremely refined interpretation), as well as the Hogwood version (on l'Oiseau Lyre). I would recommended this recording if you are interested in this early version.
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Format: Audio CD
Neville Marriner's first recording of MESSIAH, recorded in 1976, is without a doubt his best recording of the work. Marriner recorded Handel's most famous oratorio with his Academy of St. Martin in the Fields for Decca, and it is not to be confused with a later German language version from Munich for EMI, or a 1992 live concert (Philips) with soloists who were not on the level of the 1976 Decca recording.

Marriner takes generally fast, refreshing tempos in the choruses and keeps a light texture, but he knows where to slow down, and the Academy players are so good: in sync with Marriner's every nuance and tempo fluctuation (these are few, but sometimes the music calls for slight changes in tempo or expression.) "For unto us a Child is born" is the most satisfying I've heard, and it really moves, yet never seems rushed. All the soloists are excellent, and really have an understanding of Handel's style of writing for the voice, the meaning of the text, drawn from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. They are not operatic voices, but more attuned to the intimate side of late Baroque oratorio. Keep in mind, though, intimate does not mean "namby pamby" or "wimpy." The choruses are very hearty indeed, and the heft of the orchestra always appropriate in the big moments, yet never sacrificing grace for a big sound.

This is also a complete MESSIAH, and a bargain on 2 discs. Ormandy and Bernstein (both Sony) are not complete, but really extended excerpts. If you must have period instruments, try Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music (L'Oiseau Lyre, 1980, with a boys/men's choir) or Gardiner/English Baroque soloists (Philips, 1982). But Marriner in my mind is the best, as he blends both worlds: chamber choir and orchestra, but modern instruments. Recorded sound is terrific: highest recommendation!
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