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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous performance to watch, poor EMI DVD presentation, 11 Jan 2010
By 
Yi-Peng (Singapore) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
This EMI recording is the third Messiah that Cleobury and the King's College Choir have done, made during the 2009 Easter at King's season of concerts. I have reviewed the CD elsewhere, and I think my thoughts about the performance apply to this DVD version as well. As a fan of King's I find this an extremely satisfying recording of the work, and Cleobury and the King's Choir are in fine form as they have always been. Cleobury has the Academy of Ancient Music to play superbly for him, and his soloists are equally fine. However, I must admit there are some small shortcomings that I've noticed in this recording - and these shortcomings are technical weaknesses that have plagued many recent EMI recordings.

Cleobury has had a wonderful musical love affair of the King's College Choir since he started conducting them in 1982. In fact he has built on the superb work of Sir David Willcocks, who made a wonderful all-male King's Messiah for EMI in 1972. When one listens to this recording, one is struck by the consistency of Cleobury's approach. Yet he has also matured and mellowed in the way he conducts the work. Cleobury adopts brisk tempi like in his previous versions but yet he infuses his performance with slightly more gravitas. I'm struck by the stark seriousness of Behold the Lamb of God and He was despised, as they're quite effective at his chosen speeds. His Choir sings superbly, and this crop of choristers and choral scholars is arguably one of his best overall teams in recent years. The choruses are characterful, with wonderful, melodious and well-balanced singing. They are crisp, alert and dynamic especially in For unto us and the Hallelujah chorus, except that I would have liked there to be a faster tempo for And the glory of the Lord (i.e. conducted at one in a bar like the Higginbottom version). The team of soloists is very fine, and they sing as superbly as their counterparts on the earlier recordings (the Decca version and the live Pieterskerk version on Columns Classics.) Oddly enough I found I liked the male soloists a little more than the female soloists. Allan Clayton is an extremely musical tenor in his solos, especially the opening Comfort ye recitative that leads into Every valley. It was a treat to hear him do the extended version of O death, where is thy sting when he duetted with Alice Coote. I rather liked Matthew Rose, as he seemed to sing his solos to the rafters and project his voice perfectly clearly. I especially liked his rendition of The trumpet shall sound, and he seemed to inspire the trumpet soloist who accompanied him in this aria. However, I felt a little uncomfortable with the female soloists, as I felt that their voices were a little heavy and had a little too much vibrato. Alice Coote's voice is motherly and very comforting, and her renditions of O thou that tellest and He was despised were tender and light, though I prefer Anne Sofie von Otter's versions on the Pinnock recording a little more. Alish Tynan's soprano solos are heartfelt but I must admit that even in her solo of I know that my Redeemer liveth she sounded as if she was singing the role of Brünnhilde rather than a Handel oratorio. Nevertheless she is just as musical as the other soloists on Cleobury's team.

I know I've got minor quibbles about the solo singing, but their singing is mighty fine and they don't undermine the performance. However though I know that many recent King's recordings have suffered from not-so-good technical quality it doesn't show up that much here. I know I shouldn't say this as it's unfair to the artists who have made the record. However I know that EMI's sound quality in recent years has suffered from dynamic range limiting, and the sound is opaque that it lacks the punch, airiness, clarity and kick of a well-engineered recording, such as the recent Harry Christophers CD of Messiah. I've got some other recent EMI Classics CDs that have suffered from this problem too. No doubt the recording is of a good quality, and it captures the acoustic of the King's Chapel well, but yet it seems to favour the orchestra rather than the choir. However, the DVD makes up for the technical quality because the performance sounds better when you set your player to Dolby 3-channel surround, and then you feel as if you're in the living presence of Cleobury and the choir. I also think that the Dolby settings do better justice to the unique acoustic of King's College Chapel as well. This DVD can nicely complement the previous King's College Messiah DVD that Columns Classics made in the Pieterskerk, as it would show how Cleobury's King's College Choir has become riper in the singing, and also how he has matured in his conception of the work.

I'm really not qualified to say anything about the camerawork on this DVD, so I won't touch on it. Compared to the other DVD, the camera crew captures the performance from fairly good angles. Also, I note that they do a panorama around the vaulted roof of the Chapel when they're not focusing on the singers and the orchestra. The Pieterskerk DVD (formerly available on Image Entertainment) didn't do much panoramic work with the cameras, but it incorporates some Rembrandt paintings into the performance to ease our eyes after they've seen the performers on stage for a long time.

It's great to have a DVD version of this performance that was screened in cinemas as a live relay on the day it was performed. However, the EMI DVD package lets you down in some ways. The one thing that grates me is that EMI could have fitted the entire oratorio onto 1 DVD rather than break the oratorio after "Lift up your heads" to tell us to change the disc. I know that DVDs may have space constraints but it upsets me greatly to think how they didn't fit the whole oratorio onto a single DVD like some of the other issues. This makes this set quite costly and expensive, but since I paid 10 pounds for this set in good faith it's not too bad. It becomes more painful considering that EMI has other opera performances in its DVD catalogue that run to 2 DVDs when they could have fitted onto 1 disc. Also, it hurts to think that EMI didn't provide any booklet with notes, texts and translations. I know that EMI is in difficulties and in dire straits, but I've known the DVDs I've bought to have many informative booklets that allow us to follow along. So while it's well done to Cleobury and King's, it's shame on EMI for not presenting the DVD adequately.

In short, this performance of Messiah is wonderful in spite of its small flaws. Yet they seem to be nothing compared to the presentation boo-boos that EMI has made when issuing this DVD. I know that the marketplace of Messiah recordings is extremely hypercompetitive and is saturated with so many excellent recordings to choose from, especially from the likes of Shaw, Colin Davis, Pinnock, Jacobs, Gardiner and Rutter. And while I know that there's competition from the other King's Messiah DVD, I think this is still a wonderful performance that is delightful to watch and to listen. Meanwhile I do hope that someone will really come up with an issue of this performance such that it fits the oratorio onto one DVD.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful DVD recording of Messiah., 3 Dec 2010
By 
Martin Belcher (Hampshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
I bought this DVD as a birthday gift for my partner. We watched it just recently and I am very impressed with the recording of The Kings College Cambridge Choir performing George Frideric Handel's Messiah along with Ailish Tynan - Soprano, Alice Coote - Mezzo-soprano, Allan Clayton - Tenor and Matthew Rose - Bass.

It comes on two discs, disc one containing the first and second parts of the performance and disc two finishes off part two with the famous Hallelujah! chorus and then to a rousing climax with part three.

The choir of King's College are just superb and the setting of King's in Cambridge is very beautiful and I particularly like the way the camera pans around and to the ceiling during parts of the performance to give you stunning views.

Of course in my opinion nothing is better than hearing Messiah sung live but this DVD is a very close second and a wonderful recording. Messiah never fails to inspire and uplift. Beautiful!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glorious Performance, 15 April 2011
This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
The whole performance in the beautiful surroundings and ambience of King's College made this a wonderful listening and viewing experience. The soloists were fine and the choir as impeccable as ever. Stephen Cleobury brings together the young voices, even the lower parts are only in their younger years, with marvellous precision and enthusiasm to give us a 'Glorious Performance'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handel's Messiah DVD, 14 Dec 2011
This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
This performance was wonderful especially as I watched it with a lady who had sung in King's College Cambridge about 40 years ago.She is 77 now and she and another Dutch girl were very high up at each side of the organ from where they sang.She told me they were Cherubs.I thought it very interesting as I had no idea that she is still singing in a choir in Fuengirola Spain and has a long drive to practice three times a week.She thought the soloists were superb.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic performance of Handel's "Messiah" on DVD, 23 April 2012
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is such an enjoyable performance of Handel's "Messiah", sung by four superb soloists,joined by the choir of King's College,Cambridge and set in the beautiful surroundings of King's College itself. The whole work is atmospheric and fantastically performed! I love the Academy of Ancient Music, conducted by Stephen Cleobury. Of particular interest as well is the wonderful playing of the ancient trumpet by David Blackadder duing, appropriately "The trumpet shall sound". A marvellous performance and one I shall watch over and over as it lifts the spirits with Handel's glorious music and the excellent performance both by singers and musicians!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Messsiah recording, 4 Sep 2010
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
This is a tremendous live performance, originally broadcast live around the UK and Europe in cinemas. Most certainly worth buying.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Always inspiring!, 30 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
Not the same impact that a large choir would have, but very good all the same.
Singing was brilliant, the soloist's excellent. Great experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seasonal music from a great choir., 3 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
This was a wonderful purchase as I have seen The Messiah performed on the South Bank. There was an enormous choir and a large orchestra on that occasion. I am amazed that this smaller production produces so much quality and with instruments typical of the era Handel was writing in. The music and the lyrics are just wonderful. I will sit through this DVD each and every Christmas from now on.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, 18 May 2012
By 
B. S. Ringrose (Malmesbury) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] (DVD)
King's College Choir is excellent, ably led by Stephen Cleobury. Academy of Ancient Music also is splendid. The soloists and good and the music by Handel is unforgetable. I've listen to it several times and will continue to enjoy it.
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Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC]
Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2009] [NTSC] by George Frideric Handel (DVD - 2009)
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