RECORDINGS

LABEL: PHILIPS
CATALOG NUMBER: 434297
UPC NUMBER: 028943429726
NUMBER OF DISCS: 2
RUNNING TIME: 137 MIN.
YEAR RECORDED: 1982
CD RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 14, 2003
CONDUCTOR: JOHN ELIOT GARDINER
ORCHESTRA: ENGLISH BAROQUE SOLOISTS
CHOIR: MONTEVERDI CHOIR
SOPRANO: MARGARET MARSHALL, CATHERINE ROBBIN
TREBLE: SAUL QUIRKE
COUNTERTENOR: CHARLES BRETT
TENOR: ANTHONY ROLFE JOHNSON
BASS: RICHARD HALE


AUDIO SAMPLES HIGHLIGHTS OTHER RELEASES

DISC ONE

1. Part 1. Sinfonia
2. Part 1. Comfort ye, my people
3. Part 1. Ev'ry valley shall be exalted
4. Part 1. And the glory of the Lord
5. Part 1. Thus saith the Lord
6. Part 1. But who may abide
7. Part 1. And He shall purify
8. Part 1. Behold, a virgin shall conceive    
9. Part 1. O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Aria) / O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion
10. Part 1. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
11. Part 1. The people that walked in darkness
12. Part 1. For unto us a Child is born
13. Part 1. Pifa - Sinfonia pastorale
14. Part 1. There were shepherds / And lo, the angel of the Lord / And the angel said unto them / And s
15. Part 1. Glory to God
16. Part 1. Rejoice greatly
17. Part 1. Then shall the eyes of the blind    
18. Part 1. He shall feed His flock
19. Part 1. His yoke is easy
20. Part 2. Behold the Lamb of God
21. Part 2. He was despised
22. Part 2. Surely, He hath borne our griefs
23. Part 2. And with His stripes
24. Part 2. All we like sheep have gone astray
DISC TWO

1. Part 2. All they that see Him
2. Part 2. He trusted in God
3. Part 2. Thy rebuke hath broken His heart
4. Part 2. Behold, and see
5. Part 2. He was cut off    
6. Part 2. But Thou didst not leave
7. Part 2. Lift up your heads
8. Part 2. Unto which of the angels    
9. Part 2. Let all the angels of God
10. Part 2. Thou art gone up on high
11. Part 2. The Lord gave the word
12. Part 2. How beautiful are the feet (alternative version)
13. Part 2. Their sound is gone out (alternative version)
14. Part 2. Why do the nations
15. Part 2. He that dwelleth in heaven    
16. Part 2. Thou shalt break them
17. Part 2. Hallelujah
18. Part 3. I know that my Redeemer liveth
19. Part 3. Since my man came death
20. Part 3. Behold, I tell you a mystery    
21. Part 3. The trumpet shall sound
22. Part 3. Then shall be brought to pass    
23. Part 3. O death, where is thy sting?
24. Part 3. If God is for us
25. Part 3. Worthy is the Lamb... Amen.

SITE RATING:  8/10
SITE REVIEW:  The Gardiner recording, from 1982, is impressive for the technical prowess of all the performers, but there are a couple of nagging points for me that keeps this set from becoming my favorite. The foremost is the coldness of the performance - although it is technically perfect - the tempos, soloists, orchestra and chorus are all textbook examples of how clean and precise Messiah can sound; yet under Gardiner's direction there is no passion, substance, or meaning afforded to the text. Handel was not necessarily a devoutly religious man, although reputed to be a committed Lutheran, but he *was* an experienced theatrical composer, and the Messiah was arguably meant to be sung with drama - yet the conductor here chooses to avoid emotional readings of the text, instead opting for clean diction, precise pitches, mild dynamic changes, and fluid, stately tempos. Gardiner here serves the music with a sure master's hand, but in so doing, he slights the message of the text which is equally important. While the performance was beautiful to listen to, it made little emotional connection with me. And for me, music (and Messiah in particular) has the power to uplift the soul.

My other small quibble is the vocal quality of Charles Brett, the counter-tenor, whose tone is oddly dissimilar to the rest of the performance. It's lovely and precisely performed, but I found myself pulled out of the performance, and concentrating on his distinctive tonal quality, rather than the text or the music.

On the plus side however, is the gorgeous blend of the choir and orchestra, the wonderful, surprising use of a treble on "And Lo, There Were Shepherds", the commanding unity of the conductor and his forces, and the still impressive sonic presence of the recording, even after twenty-plus years. Overall, I recommend this recording for it's stellar qualities, even if I am left with the impression that despite the messianic message of the text, nobody here really believes what they are singing.
 ~ BDW



The Compleat Messiah All Content Copyright 2015 Bret D. Wheadon
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