George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) The Messiah Oratorio — complete. Heather Harper (soprano) Helen Watts (contralto) John Wakefield (tenor) John Shirley-Quirk (bass) Ralph Downes (organ) Leslie Pearson (harpsichord) William Lang (trumpet)si London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. Let me say at once, notwithstanding any qualifications, that I haven’t enjoyed any performance of Messiah –live, radio, or record — half as much as this one for 20 years or so, since the dawnings of my musical sophistication. I put this subjectively, because I don’t think everyone will feel the same. This not a traditional Messiah. It is a modern one, by which I mean that it is one which sweeps away the late eighteenthand the nineteenth-century glosses and aims at a performing style as near to Handel’s as can be (though occasionally the aim is, I think, a little off-centre — but more of that below). Of course, we can never quite return to Messiah as Handel gave it in Dublin in 1742 or at the Foundling Hospital in the 1750s: first, it is impossible totally to recapture the performing conventions of those days; second, performances with 25 singers and an orchestra of 35 wouldn’t be generally acceptable nowadays — and in a sense rightly, for instruments and vocal techniques have changed, and merely to use the numbers Handel used (and evidently preferred) would not give us the sound he heard. This new version has an orchestra of 31 strings, two oboes, two bassoons
Video Rating: 4 / 5

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