RECORDINGS

LABEL: RCA VICTOR
CATALOG NUMBER: 09026-61266-2
UPC NUMBER: 090266126620
NUMBER OF DISCS: 3
RUNNING TIME: 161:18
YEAR RECORDED: 1959
CD RELEASE DATE: JUNE 14, 1992
CONDUCTOR: SIR THOMAS BEECHAM
ORCHESTRA: ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
CHOIR: ROYAL PHILHARMONIC CHORUS
SOPRANO: JENNIFER VYVYAN
MEZZO-SOPRANO: MONICA SINCLAIR
TENOR: JON VICKERS
BASS: GIORGIO TOZZI

AUDIO SAMPLES HIGHLIGHTS OTHER RELEASES

DISC ONE

1. Overture
2. Recit: Comfort ye, my people
3. Air: Every valley shall be exalted
4. Chorus: And the glory of the Lord
5. Recit: Thus saith the Lord of Hosts
6. Air: But who may abide
7. Chorus And He shall purify
8. Recit: Behold, a virgin shall conceive
9. Air & Chorus: O thou that tellest good tidings
10. Recit: For, behold, darkness shall cover
11. Air: The people that walked in darkness
12. Chorus: For unto us a child is born
13. Pastoral Symphony
14. Recit: There were shepherds abiding
15. Recit: And the angel said unto them
16. Recit: And suddenly there was    
17. Chorus: Glory to God in the highest
18. Air: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion
19. Recit: Then shall the eyes
20. Air: He shall feed his flock; Come unto Him
21. Chorus: His yoke is easy

DISC TWO

1. Chorus: Behold the Lamb of God
2. Air: He was despised
3. Chorus: Surely He hath borne our griefs
4. Chorus: And with His stripes we are healed
5. Chorus: All we like sheep have gone astray
6. Recit: All they that see Him
7. Chorus: He trusted in God
8. Recit: Thy rebuke hath broken His heart
9. Air: Behold, and see if there be
10. Recit: He was cut off out of the land    
11. Air: But Thou didst not leave
12. Chorus: Lift up your heads
13. Air: How beautiful are the feet
14. Chorus: Their sound is gone out into all lands
15. Air: Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
16. Chorus: Let us break their bonds asunder
17. Recit: He that dwelleth in heaven    
18. Chorus: Hallelujah!
19. Air: I know that my Redeemer liveth
20. Chorus: Since by man came death
21. Rect: Behold, I tell you a mystery
22. Air: The trumpet shall sound
23. Chorus: Worthy is the Lamb

DISC THREE

APPENDIX
1. Recit: Unto which of the angels    
2. Chorus: Let all the angels of God worship Him
3. Air: Thou art gone up on high
4. Chorus: The Lord gave the word
5. Recit: Then shall be brought to pass    
6. Duet: O death, where is thy sting?
7. Chorus: But thanks be to God
8. Air: If God be for us

SITE RATING:  8/10
SITE REVIEW: The Beecham Messiah of 1959 is another early stereo recording that polarizes listeners, with understandable cause.  Like the Ormandy Messiah (with its liberal cuts) or the Bernstein Messiah(which changes the order around), The Beecham recording incites friction on a couple of counts, the most egregious being the re-orchestration arranged by Sir Eugene Goossens.  Now, not many purists are going to get their feathers ruffled by the likes of someone like Mozart giving Handel an orchestral face lift, but HE was a genius - Sir Eugene Goossens most certainly was not, hard-working and accomplished as he may have been.  Goossens' additions have the effect of turning Messiah into a large-scale carnival of sound, with the extra instruments bouncing in and out like a child trying desperately to get an adult's attention.  Beecham's explanation for the re-orchestrations are logical enough; during the past two centuries, Messiah had played to larger and larger houses, and proportionately larger forces were needed to push the sound out.  Handel himself would add or subtract orchestral parts based on circumstance, and so Sir Thomas Beecham certainly felt no qualms about "punching up" the orchestra with oboes, extra brass, timpani, and cymbals to bring added thunder to the piece.  Purists will howl, but that is, indeed, the way it was, in the 1950s and before, and to argue that the period instrument movement is an improvement is simply a modern conceit.  As to the performance, yes, it's much slower than modern baroque revivals tolerate, but the playing, singing, and emotion displayed is truly luscious; I'm especially taken with Jennifer Vyvyan's lovely "How Beautiful Are The Feet", and the glory and grandeur of "Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder" is a rival of any version anywhere.  And I daresay you will not hear a more thunderous, expansive version of the "Hallelujah" chorus ever, and yes, it is thrilling, even though it's odd to hear a triangle, of all things, ringing out during the final chord.  This recording also garners extra points from me due to the inclusion of an appendix disc, in which Sir Thomas attempted to identify extant pieces of Messiah which had popped in and out of various editions, making this set the first to recognize that Handel had, in fact, often tinkered with his work.  Of course, if you're going to choose just one Messiah to start your collection, the Beecham would not be my first choice, but it's a stirring and powerful performance that's idiosyncratic enough to merit serious consideration from listeners (with open minds) of all dispositions. ~ BDW

The Compleat Messiah All Content Copyright © 2009 Bret D. Wheadon
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