SITE RATING: 3/10
REVIEW: Listening to
past recordings of Messiah can be illuminating.
In this, Sir Malcom Sargent's final of
over his long and illustrious career, all of
the largess and heaviness which had permeated
Handel's oratorio over the centuries is on its
full display, and to its worst effect.
Sargent was seventy years old in 1965
when this was recorded; he would die two years
later, and in many ways this Messiah
sounds more like a dirge than many others.
Lumbering, with huge forces giving the
only semblance of grandeur, Sargent's tempi
are positively glacial; the soloists sound
mired in tar, with thick, throaty tessituras;
and the orchestra and choir, buried beneath
their sheer numbers, are completely lost
within the smothering echo which permeates the
entire recording - all the fine detail is
lost, leaving nothing but a thick sludge for
the listener to try and discern the text.
It seems to be sheer luck when an
instrument pops out of the mire - a flute
(another remnant from post-baroque
"improvements") rears it's chirpy head during
"O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion" -
the only bright spot in the darkness. I
do enjoy John Shirley-Quirk's performance here
- he is clearly in his prime, and sounds
glorious, reveling in the long, languid lines
which Sargent indulges in. But most of
the rest of the recording is so slow and
soporific that its difficult to keep focused.
It simply drags on... and on...
Reader's Digest acquired the rights to
this recording ages ago, and continues to
repackage and reissue it under many guises.
Even if you prefer the grand, slow
tradition, I think many listeners would find
weighs too heavily on the ear.