Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handel's Wonderful Vision., 25 Mar 2011
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah (Audio CD)
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.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Jan 2014 19:42:51 GMT
hillbank68 says:
This is a review of a different performance and recording. I am surporised, in the circumstances, that so many people found it helpful!

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2014 21:07:48 GMT
T.J.Byford says:
Mr, MacFarlane.

This is an intriguing comment. My review is of this recording, and which you will see is an Amazon verified purchase is testament to this. So my "review" is perfectly valid.

I'd be pleased to learn which other recording you think I've reviewed.

Posted on 4 Feb 2014 14:48:47 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Feb 2014 14:55:27 GMT
film buff says:
This is also linked to a different CD by the Liverpool phil.& Huddersfield Choral Soc. My comment below refers to the Royal Philharmonic /Choral Soc.
You may have seen the 3 LP set of the same orchestra, choral society and soloists presented in a red box with gold writing by Reader's Digest? I have that LP set and it is superb as is the CD I have (after hearing the records.) by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orch. and Royal Huddersfield Choral Soc.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Feb 2014 15:26:13 GMT
T.J.Byford says:
Hello, film buff.

Yes, I did spot that there are two CfP CD releases of this very same recording, 1959, with different sleeve designs, and according to Amazon with two different release dates. Both have attracted two sets of reviewers. I wonder if this could explain the ambivalent attitude of some reviewers to the quality of the CD issues? The set I have sounds magnificent, for CD.

I'm not familiar with the RD LP set release of what I suppose is still this 1959 recording, but RD were well known for acquiring rights to re-issue existing recordings and generally on superior quality LP pressings to boot. So I am not in the least surprised to learn that your set is superb.

Thanks for your input.
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