SITE RATING: 8/10
REVIEW: This 1954 Messiah,
recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra
and Philharmonic Choir is perhaps the best
overall recording of the 1950s. Hermann
Scherchen, (who would later return to Messiah
in a 1959 recording) seems to have the most
fluid direction, and this performance,
although generally slower than most modern
interpretations, brings out all of the
dark-hued beauties in the music, beauties
which cannot be appreciated when the tempo is
racing along. There are lovely orchestra
colors revealed here (in warm mono sound), and
an aching longing brought to "Comfort Ye"
(sung with with soft gravity by tenor William
Herbert), and even though the performance is
spread out over three fully-loaded CDs, many
of the movements are quite swift, such as the
breathless "And He Shall Purify" which, to my
ears, sounds positively rushed.
Unfortunately, I cannot abide contralto
Constance Shacklock's thick, fruity tone,
which she lavishes over all of her arias.
It's as if Julia Child were let loose in
the recording studio after having taken up
light opera instead of French cuisine!
The sole CD release of this fine Messiah
is sadly out of print, but, to be fair, I
would wish for a better reissue than what
Precision Records gave us, with a grotesque
portrait of Handel gracing the cover (painted
by a grade-schooler?), or the strange listing
of the LP track lineup on the back cover,
rather than a properly divided track list.
Despite it's age, this is a recording I
tend to return to, to remind me why, for so
many generations, a slower, more graceful
approach to Handel's Messiah was preferred. ~ BDW