RECORDINGS

LABEL: THE BARBIROLLI SOCIETY / BBC
CATALOG NUMBER: SJB 1086-87
EAN NUMBER: 5060181660870
NUMBER OF DISCS: 2
RUNNING TIME: 2:07:58
YEAR RECORDED: 1964
CD RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 18, 2016
CONDUCTOR: SIR JOHN BARBIROLLI
ORCHESTRA: HALLE ORCHESTRA
CHOIR: SHEFFIELD PHILHARMONIC CHORUS
SOPRANO: ELIZABETH HARWOOD
ALTO: MARJORIE THOMAS
TENOR: GERALD ENGLISH
BASS: KIM BORG


AUDIO SAMPLES HIGHLIGHTS OTHER RELEASES

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DISC ONE

Part 1
1. Overture/Sinfonia: Grave - Allegro moderato    5:14
2. Recitative: Comfort ye, My people    3:31
3. Air: Ev'ry valley shall be exited    3:57
4. Chorus: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed    3:17
5. Recitative: Thus saith the Lord of Hosts    1:58
6. Air: But who may abide the day of His coming?    4:39
7. Recitative: Behold a virgin shall conceive    0:42
8. Air and Chorus: O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion    6:37
9. Recitative: For behold, darkness shall cover the earth    3:40
10. Air: The people that walked in darkness    3:58
11. Chorus: For unto us a child is born    4:28
12. Pastoral Symphony    3:26
13. Recitative: There were shepherds abiding in the fields    2:03
14. Chorus: Glory to God in the Highest    2:03
15. Air: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion    4:43
16. Recitative: Then shall the eyes of the blind be open'd    0:42
17. Air: He shall feed his flock    6:08
18. Chorus: His yoke is easy, his Burthen is light    2:20
DISC TWO

Part 2
1. Chorus: Behold the lamb of God    3:40
2. Air: He was despised    5:41
3. Chorus: Surely He hath borne our griefs    3:00
4. Chorus: All we like sheep have gone astray    4:55
5. Recitative: All they that see Him    0:48
6. Chorus: He trusted in God    2:14
7. Recitative: Thy rebuke hath broken His heart    2:31
8. Air: Behold, and see, if there be any sorrow    1:41
9. Recitative: He was cut off out of the land    0:17
10. Air: But Thou did'st not leave his soul in hell    2:13
11. Chorus: Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates    3:26
12. Chorus: The Lord gave the word    1:23
13. Air: How beautiful are the feet    2:59
14. Air: Why do the nations so furiously rage together    2:47
15. Chorus: Let us break their bonds asunder    1:53
16. Recitative: He that dwelleth in heaven    0:18
17. Air: Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron    2:13
18. Chorus: Hallelujah!    3:55

PART 3
19. I Air: I know that my Redeemer liveth    7:27
20. Chorus: Since by man came death    2:22
21. Recitative: Behold, I tell you a mystery    0:35
22. Air: The trumpet shall sound    4:17
23. Chorus: Worthy is the lamb that was slain    3:31
24. Amen    3:50

SITE RATING:  6/10
SITE REVIEW:  An historic live recording which the BBC captured on its December 6, 1964 performance, and currently available in full on YouTube, this first-ever CD release, commissioned by The Barbirolli Society admirably demonstrates how far Messiah performances have evolved in performance practice over the past several decades.  Every tempo is slower, grander, and richer; lines are longer, stretched out to what would be considered today indulgent lengths, and yet, nothing feels turgid or over-long - rather, this is a luscious Messiah, reveling in each moment.  That's not to say that it's a first choice for a collection - the live sound is rather dim and compressed, especially the choral numbers, which sound positively muddy.  And the performance of the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus is thick and slab-like, utterly devoid of the lightness and clarity afforded by modern choral practices.  The soloists are captured better - tenor Gerald English is quite splendid, giving an heroic performance.  Bass Kim Borg, a famous Finnish performer, is also affecting, sounding positively Wagnerian here, but dripping with passion.  Marjorie Thomas, who I've seen listed as both a mezzo-soprano and contralto, is powerful, but sounds out of her element on the melismas, giving far too much weight to each one.  Soprano Elizabeth Harwood is wonderful - beautifully expressive and alternately tender and striking.  The Hallé Orchestra is similarly excellent, with Sir Barbirolli giving a heart-felt, tender reading.  It's good to have this performance available again - not only for its peek into historic performance practices, but for a few wonderful moments worth hearing.


The Compleat Messiah All Content Copyright © 2016 Bret D. Wheadon
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