Top positive review
23 people found this helpful
Handel's Wonderful Vision.
on 25 March 2011
In 1959, when I was 14 years old my father bought me a 7" mono EP of three excerpts of this recording, no doubt believing I needed some uplifting music! The "Hallelujah" Chorus, of course, went down very well, but I thought the other two tracks were a bit heavy going, and perhaps not helped by the rather soggy sound of my father's HMV radiogram.
In the intervening years, I have listened to a number of live performances and had acquired several recordings on CD and which I subsequently passed on as none gave me the same feeling of joy as when I listened to that original mono recording of Hallelujah, all those years ago. Oddly, the one recording I didn't try was this one, mainly because I missed its being released. It has been a long time coming, but for me now, I have the perfect recording and performance of this work.
Reading Sir Malcolm's original 1959 liner notes which have been retained for this release, is a revelation in itself. Even way back then he was pointing out the deficiencies and problems faced with trying to create an "authentic" performance when Handel left so little behind to guide a conductor as to how the work should be performed. Essentially then, what we hear today has more to do with the conductor's vision as opposed to Handel's.
"Messiah" is an English Oratorio in the true sense, it is not something sung in an English translation of a foreign text. It therefore benefits from having native singers whose diction is first rate. And you certainly get this from the singers on this recording. Clear diction also extends to the 100 strong hand-picked members of the Huddersfield Choral Society, that great body of singers who have a tradition of singing Messiah in their blood. You should be aware then, that this is a performance on the grand scale, a traditionally English view of "Messiah".
But the "miracle" hear is the balance between the orchestra, soloists and the large choir. It is all placed in a fairly natural and open acoustic. So no part outdoes the other, such that the sound engineer has done a marvellous job at keeping the whole sound clean and even when the choir is singing its loudest, they are not distorted. The soloists can be heard against the orchestra and the various sections of the choir are all distinct and with that very clear diction of theirs that means the sound never gets "thick". Do no look down on this recording because if dates from 1959. The remastering for CD is superb.
Sir Malcolm was one of a handful of conductors who, in my opinion, never sought effects in his music making, preferring to let the music speak for itself. His interpretation in this performance seems to have a naturalness and flow that just seems right.