Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Authenticists, stay away!, 3 April 2008
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This review is from: Handel: Messiah (Audio CD)
While I am not by any means an original instrument/performance purist, even I find myself balking at the leisurely swagger of so many of the tempi adopted here (although Sir Thomas scampers through "For we, like sheep" as if he cannot wait to be rid of the embarrassment of it) and the rather disconcerting woodwind twiddles, flutey noodlings, lush horns and timpani bashings with which the Goossens orchestration (or was it more the work of Beecham himself?) graces us - yet I will readily admit that I really enjoy this rendering of Handel's inexhaustible masterpiece, done con amore as only Beecham could do it. The slow tempi certainly allow a clear articulation and a grandeur of utterance which are not unbecoming to such theologically elevated music.

The soloists are very fine, especially the men; Vickers obviously has a heroic tenor very different from the rather hooty, throaty tenorino so often wheeled out these days for this music (I mention no British tenors whose weedy sound is so inexplicably prized...) and he articulates the recitative with real depth of feeling. Tozzi, likewise, is a tower of strength - you can just luxuriate in the smooth treacle of that bass. The women are stalwarts of that era; fine artists both.

It's not the only "Messiah" you will want to hear; there is room for a less reverential, more animated and generally more lightly sprung interpretation but in many ways it brings you closer to the emotional heart of this music than many an underpowered, chilly and spare "original instruments" version. (Actually, Beecham's orchestra and choir are not that big compared with the Victorian blockbuster style which preceded it; it's just the ponderous tempi and extra orchestration which create an impression of additional weight.)

So buy this - it's very reasonably priced and beautifully recorded for its 1959 provenance - and enjoy it for what it is: Beecham's tribute to a master composer.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 26 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Nov 2008 23:07:46 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Feb 2009 23:16:10 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
Ooooh....never dare to criticise the modern, decadent taste for lousy, white-voiced, precious, pernickety British tenors, or someone will give you a "no-vote"....
Has there ever been a more ridiculous sound than that of Peter Pears at any stage of his inexplicably successful career? Or a more conclusive indictment of the decadence in modern critics than their endorsement of Bostridge's strangulated warblings? Or a more uncomfortable vocal production than the bleating of Robert Tear? The current modern-day tenor marvel here in the UK, alongside Mr Bostridge, is Mark Padmore. I heard him live before he became flavour of the month - every month - and was so underwhelmed that I could not believe it when he started making it big. Of course, we have had excellent British tenors of the lighter type, in the Fritz Wunderlich school of voice: I am going back to Heddle Nash, then Richard Lewis, to Ian Partridge (still singing), to Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, and their ilk - and I am a great admirer of Barry Banks. I am usually respectful of anyone who dares to stand before the public and give of their art, but my patience runs out when it comes to that peculiarly British predilection for effete tenorinos in preference to Vickers, Del Monaco, Corelli or Jan Peerce.

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2010 00:18:41 GMT
Mr. Ow Doney says:
I admit I find Robert Tear rather wearying to listen to, I sometimes wonder if Peter Pears would be the name he is if he hadn't been so closely linked to Britten. And I wonder if Ian Bostridge doesn't sometimes get a bit too close to hysteria for my liking. But Mark Padmore? Fair enough, I wouldn't expect to hear him holding forth in the Verdi Requiem, or giving vent to Gerontius' spiritual agony, but taken on his own terms, in Bach, Handel, Purcell, even some Britten I find him quite wonderful. Is it because my ears thrill to his incisive squillo when he produces notes above the stave...? No, it's because I find his musicality, his care for words and meaning very impressive. Is his a Great Voice in the tradition of the Great Tenors? Perhaps not. Is he a great singer? Well, I think so. Do all the great works in classical music not have room for different types of singer; different types of tenor?
I certainly commend the above reviewer on his impatience with white-voiced, precious, pernickety etcs. Singers should have voices, and know how to use them, not just emit noise at the right pitches with the right vowels, etc. But I would prefer to live and hear in a time when we can listen to Mark Padmores and Anthony Rolfe Johnsons and John Vickers and not just those able to be heard across the length and breadth and height of an enormous chamber of an opera house.
One of the most remarkable tenor solos I think I've ever heard (on a recording) was a performance of 'Tis Nature's Voice by Rogers Covey Crump who has a tenor voice so light it's almost more alto in quality, but who used it in such a searching way with such care for line, words, and musical effect that it was a magical experience. Even if it was a bit precious and exacting!

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2010 11:26:05 GMT
Last edited by the author on 24 Mar 2010 19:25:50 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
Thank you for your courteous and knowledgeable response - rather more temperate than my review, although I was of course being just a little deliberately provocative, as a measure of my frustration. I do accept that certain kinds of light, cool, "French" style of tenor excel in some music and think particularly of a voice like that of Rolfe Johnson singing "Waft her, angels" but I think they should be very careful to sing in a Fach to which they are suited and I remain convinced that Bostridge and Pears have/had essentially pathological voices. Only yesterday I was listening to half a dozen versions of "Where'er you walk" on YouTube, and only Bostridge's gave me no pleasure, regardless of voice-type and style; his was typically affected. I honestly don't think that the noise Padmore produces has any real squillo as such; it's far too falsetto biased. It's artists like Pavarotti and Bjorling - or indeed Florez - who have that. What I do not want to happen is for the throaty white tenor of the Tear type to obliterate a taste for what I regard as a healthier sound - but we still have singers around such as Kaufmann to remind us what a properly registered tenor voice sounds like.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Aug 2010 23:42:13 BDT
I agree with you about Mark Padmore, Mr Doney. I personally I don't care for Verdi tenors, possibly because I don't care for Verdi. My biggest hate, however, would have to be Wagnerian sopranos. Wagner makes me shudder. We all have holes in our musical tastes and mine are almost anything after Beethoven (apart from Chopin). If I want something new to me I have to delve way back into the past. In doing so I've developed a deep love for the old British composers, and not just the most famous (Purcell) and found some wonderful Spanish and Italian ones.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Aug 2010 00:30:24 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
With all due respect, Ms Barker, if you care neither for Verdi or Wagner and dislike everything post-Beethoven that must inevitably rules you out from having any valid opinion at all about operatic voices, given their development post-Gluck to accommodate new musical styles. Baroque and Handelian voices are all very well, but I note that some of the greatest operatic singers were quite at ease, physically and stylistically, singing music from an earlier epoch, whereas the converse is never true: small-scale, Baroque specialist singers without much resonance cannot scale up to the demands of verismo. I too love music of an earlier age by the likes of Monteverdi and Purcell - but no-one sings the latter better than, say, Janet Baker, who had a sound big enough to fill Carnegie Hall or Covent Garden. Wunderlich sang Bach beautifully but could also sing Mahler and Verdi (albeit in German). Please don't think I'm being rude - but I am truly mystified by someone whose tastes exclude the highpoints of the last two hundred years of Western vocal music!

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Aug 2010 02:48:27 BDT
I like Dame Janet too, Ralph. She has a unique voice. As for the holes in my musical taste, we all have them and we are all entitled to them. When educating myself to appreciate Classical music I did try everything. FWIW, my sister landed up with completely opposite tastes to mine. While my big passion is chamber music, she preferred a huge modern orchestra--Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky; the noisier the better. After her death I found not one Bach CD in her collection. There wasn't a lot of Mozart either. And I know someone who can't stand Mozart. So was my sister not entitled to be uninterested in Bach? Is my friend Walter weird for not liking Mozart? I can't understand either dislike but I wouldn't dream of criticising them. They are entitled to have holes in their tastes.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Aug 2010 08:47:23 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
Laraine,
I have had a similar discussion elsewhere on Amazon about "holes" and "no-go areas". Of course we are all "entitled" to like what we like but I suppose I feel obliged every so often to revisit composers and artists to whom I do not respond and yet who enjoy widespread adulation. They include, for me: Liszt, most Shostakovich and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, to name three at random. I do feel that you must be denying yourself something worthwhile to exclude everything post Beethoven - although no-one can be forced, or force herself for that matter, to like something and you say you "did try everything".

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Aug 2010 19:57:59 BDT
I was 17, Ralph, and there was no-one to guide me. My family thought I was a real oddball. In those days appreciation of Classical music was still the prerogative of the well-heeled and well-educated and we were neither. But I remember buying an LP of Menuhin's performance of the Bloch concerto. I played it night after night until I could honestly say, "Well, I can follow it, but you can jolly well keep it; it's awful." (I still have it.) I hear plenty of music on the radio that I "don't respond to". Sometimes my nerves get so jangled I have to switch off; some of it I'm happy to listen to but not enough to want to buy it. Sometimes I get comments from my husband. "What racket!" is a common one.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Aug 2010 22:59:44 BDT
Last edited by the author on 31 Aug 2010 00:15:24 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
In which case you are testament to how music can overcome obstacles and barriers to find its way to us. I hardly ever listen to music on the radio as I dislike the agendum of BBC Radio 3 (too many doses of modernist car-horns) and cannot stand the commercials on Classic FM - so it's back to making my own choices. Happy listening!

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Aug 2010 00:08:55 BDT
ROTFL. In the case of Radio New Zealand's "Concert" we get not only modernist car horns but also piano works that remind me of the times my sisters and I got onto Mum's piano (when she wasn't around of course) and pretended to be concert pianists. Then there's jazz--the type in which saxophone players are determined to make their instruments sound as ugly as possible by forcing them to scream as though in agony--and something called World Music, which invariably sounds to me like pop music in a foreign language. Add to that William Dart's "New Horizons", which exams the history of pop music. Fortunately that hasn't been on for a while, but when it was I wondered if he gave any thought to the fact that his possible audience would have been switched onto a commercial station. And lately we've had even worse: pop artists as Composers of the Week! I understand Concert has always been modelled on BBC Radio (what's it called now? I remember it used to be The Third Programme) and I told Concert more than once that just because the BBC was going down the gurgler we didn't have to follow them!
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Location: Bishop's Stortford, UK

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