SITE RATING: 1/10
REVIEW: When reviewing a release like this
one, which states quite plainly on its cover
that it's mainly of interest to
"Collector's" (a title which, in this
instance, should be taken at face value),
it's difficult to know which audience to
speak to. To the general audience, the
casual audience, this release will hold no
interest whatsoever. These
earliest-preserved recordings of Handel's Messiah
are virtually unlistenable, with, by modern
standards, extraordinarily poor performances
and abominable audio fidelity.
Honestly - on the first recordings from
1906, it sounds as if Uncle Joe pulled
together a local bar band consisting of a
badly out-of-tune flutist, a couple of horn
players, and a harmonium, and then pulled a
couple of wanna-be singers off of street
corners to sing some popular choruses from Messiah.
The 1907 Crystal Palace recordings are
vitually washed out by white noise, and so
distantly placed is the choir that it's as
if they were recorded from inside a
cardboard box across the street.
Tempos throughout are glacial, the
bass on "Why Do The Nations" sounds as if
he's being slapped around on his melismas,
and the soprano singing "Come Unto Him"
might as well be singing a funeral dirge.
From there, things generally don't
improve. I did enjoy the tenor singing
"Thou Shalt Break Them" but that's a
marginal recommendation. For musical
historians, this double-disc set is a
treasure-trove of enlightenment, with actual
live performances captured which shows how
great and grand Messiah had grown in
performance. There are large, sweeping
forces gathered for these choruses, and the
tempi are very much entrenched on the slow
side of things. Listening to this it's
little wonder the period-instrument craze of
the mid-1980s-present has had such success.
No one need seek this out unless you
absolutely have to have everything, and if
that's the case, perhaps some personal
therapy would be in order.