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Handel: Messiah (1751 Version)

Handel: Messiah (1751 Version)

31 Oct 2006

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Product details

  • Original Release Date: 31 Oct 2006
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Naxos
  • Copyright: (C) 2006 Naxos
  • Total Length: 2:21:54
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B001LZQ7KU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,764 in MP3 Albums (See Top 100 in MP3 Albums)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Dec 2006
Format: Audio CD
I had some doubts about this Messiah before I opened it and started playing it. My doubts disappeared almost immediately and never reappeared. This is, simply put, a sensational recording of Handel's best-loved oratorio. And it has the added attraction of being the version he prepared for a 1751 London performance in which the soprano parts were taken by boy trebles. The performers here are the Choir of New College, Oxford, the Academy of Ancient Music, three solo trebles, countertenor Iestyn Davies, tenor Toby Spence and bass Eamonn Dougan all under the direction of New College's long-time music director, Edward Higginbottom.

I'm not enough of a scholar of the various performing editions of 'Messiah' to be able to cite chapter and verse about how this version might differ from others. Suffice it to say that Handel didn't actually leave a definitive version and over the many years that I've heard (or sung) performances of the work, there have often been slight differences. It did not take me long to become very fond of the three solo trebles (Henry Jenkinson, Otta Jones and Robert Brooks) in their solo outings. I was taken by every single treble solo. A friend of mine says he thinks that 'He shall feed his flock' is the loveliest thing Handel ever wrote; I don't know that I'd necessarily agree with him, but I must say that Davies and Jones do a superb job with it.

As for the choir, it is magnificent. Obviously their sound is that of the English cathedral tradition and there are some who don't much care for it; I, on the other hand, admire it wholeheartedly. Higginbottom uses fairly quick tempi and the choir handles those flying semiquavers (in, for instance, 'For unto us a Child is given') with exceedingly clean technique.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Neal on 25 Feb 2008
Format: Audio CD
As an organist, chorister, choral director, composer etc, etc... I have heard and sung Messiah more times than I care to remember (and I am just 17!) My parents raised me on a healthy diet of Handel and Bach, and so over the years I have come to know and love many works by these great masters, and indeed performing a great deal in more recent years. I have heard many, many recordings of Messiah and, to put it simply, this recordings beats them all into submission. From the moment of the first few chords in the overture to the last bars of the final chorus, this is a true masterpiece of baroque performance from every angle - and I do not say that lightly. The fact that I have now started listening to Messiah for pleasure, rather than for duty or necessity, speaks for itself.

In response to Mrs Barrowman's review below, I would question all the points she has raised. Firstly, whether one is a "baroque purist" or not, this is a hugely enjoyable disc filled to the brim with technical perfection and precision. She refers to the "white sound" of the trebles - I can only think she means "pure" sound - not pure in the sense of some 1980s recordings of King's College Cambridge, which on occasions verge on being quite dry, but truly clear-cut and precise.

Furthermore, I would dispute the so-called "richness" of the female voice in other recordings. Take the venerable Helen Watts in the aria "But who may abide the day of his coming?" (an aria Helen sings superbly), and compare it to the rich clarity of Iestyn Davies in this recording, and there is no competition whatsoever (and let us not forget this is an English oratorio, not an Italian Opera, even if the composer was fluent in both styles!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. M. Burns on 4 Dec 2007
Format: Audio CD
I have a number of recordings of Messiah on both LP and CD, but this outstrips them all. When I returned home having purchased the recording I decided to sample one or two tracks and then listen to the full performance at a later date. I was, however, captivated from the first notes and played the entire performance from beginning to end. There is terrific energy in this version and every note sounds newly minted. The singing is first rate and the treble soloists are outstandingly good.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David B VINE VOICE on 10 Feb 2008
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The conductor's note says of this first recording of Handel's 1751 version:
"It is both a celebration of the chapel choir tradition and a window onto a particular time and place in the history of Handel's own performances of his masterpiece"

If you are used to performances or recordings of Messiah that employ large forces vocally and orchestrally, this fine recording will represent a very big change for you. Maybe you won't like it - but it's a very fine quality of performance, and very fresh on the ear. Personally I found it most enjoyable. The only bit that I felt somehow wasn't quite fulfilling was Rejoice Greatly. Not that the aria isn't sung well by the tenor here - it is - but we are so used to hearing a soprano "strutting her stuff" here, that there just seemed a little something lacking!

Overall, this is a fresh and lively performance, well worth having in your collection, especially at Naxos's price.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marcolorenzo TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 April 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Fresh, spiritual, energetic, angelic, and meticulous version. This version ranks among the best versions of Messiah available. For me the reference standard is Christie's version on Harmonia Mundi, but I love this version almost as much (together with the Parrott version on Virgin). Handel - MessiahHandel: Messiah
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