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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Format: DVD|Change
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on 17 July 2016
This 2002 Australian performance of Handel’s oratorio 'Messiah' (not 'The Messiah' as on the DVD), one of the most popular choral works in the repertoire and based entirely on Biblical texts, is eminently satisfactory and enjoyable. Antony Walker, who has since become Music Director of the Pittsburgh Opera, conducts the vocal ensemble Cantillation and the Orchestra of the Antipodes (both co-founded by him) with sprightly tempos and clear textures. The choir of 25 singers is evenly balanced among the four vocal parts with an additional bass singer, while the orchestra of 23 musicians play on period instruments, closely following the composer’s autographed score.

Among the five vocal soloists the acclaimed New Zealand operatic baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes stands out for the power and clarity of his singing. The splendid aria ‘Why do the nations so furiously rage together?’ is taken at a furious pace by Walker and the orchestra, but Rhodes pulls the demanding singing off without any sign of strain. Also impressive is the tenor Paul McMahon, for example in the delightful and equally demanding aria ‘Every valley shall be exalted’, which is sung expressively but without excess. Again in the bass aria ‘The trumpet shall sound’, Rhodes sings powerfully and joyfully accompanied by the trumpet soloist. In her turn, the soprano Sara Macliver gives a beautifully measured rendition of the aria ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’.

In all the choral numbers the ensemble Cantillation rises admirably to the occasion. Both ‘For unto us a child is born’ and ‘Glory to God in the highest’ are sung powerfully, yet in keeping with the conductor’s sprightly approach. The famous ‘Hallelujah’ chorus is reinforced by superb playing by the brass and percussion sections of the orchestra. Another chorus, ‘Since by man came death’, opens with very slow and florid singing, which is then excellently contrasted with faster passages. The same alternating between a slow introduction and faster passages characterises the final chorus, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain’ (which contains the Amen).

The only reason why I am not awarding 5 stars is the absence of any booklet. In a work such as this access to the sung texts would be really helpful. Of course they can be obtained online, but it is simply better customer service to provide an accompanying booklet. In all other respects, including the chapel setting and camera work, this DVD is highly recommended.
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on 18 May 2017
I've always preferred the sound of Baroque music when played by a smaller orchestra on period instruments. I bought the LPs of a very similar performance with the same soloists but different choir in the early 80s. This DVD obviously looks a bit dated but I still prefer it to any more modern recording.
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on 27 December 2011
This performance was first broadcast by the BBC in 1982. Both the Academy of Ancient Music and the choir of Westminster Abbey provide an excellent and authentic portrayal of the Foundling Hospital version of 1754. The sound of the period instruments is excellent, and for me the valveless trumpets used are really quite awe-inspiring. The Abbey choir, at this time under the direction of Simon Preston, (who also appears here as continuo harpsichordist) provides a thoroughly professional and cohesive chorus, blending as it does with the Abbey acoustic to produce the quintessential sound that only an English choir can produce. Most of the chorus work takes place west of the choir screen, and here the acoustic is quite expansive due to the height of the nave. Some of the chorus takes place in the King Henry VII Chapel, and here the acoustic is more immediate. The soloists are mixed, the stars being the soprano Emma Kirkby (brilliant and radiant) and the bass David Thomas (stirring and magnetic). In summary, a 'must have' purchase for those seeking a more 'authentic' performance, set in the incomparable beauty of Westminster Abbey, where the tomb of Handel himself rests just a few steps away from the performers.
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on 14 August 2016
This is a good version of the Messiah set in the historic setting of Westminster Abbey. However, I was disappointed that Emma Kirkby had been given the secondary soprano role and therefore did not perform most of my favourite soprano arias. The other soloists gave good performances but the Choir of Westminster Abbey was somewhat reduced in numbers. The Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood performed well. A bonus was the stunning views of Westminster Abbey.
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on 7 March 2014
This Messiah DVD will not play on my perfectly good Panasonic DVD player, although it will on my desktop PC
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on 2 June 2017
good version of messiah.
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on 7 July 2014
It was a great disappointment. It is absurd that this should be the only Messiah available in DVD..
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on 3 December 2010
As a Trained Singer/Organist/Pianist i like the older recordings of G.F. Handel "Messiah". I prefere a mixed choir but Handel wrote Messiah for a small choir.
This recording was on VHS Video and now on DVD, the solist`s are excellent and the Choir is very good.
I have been trying for a while to get a Video or DVD of "Messiah" with Kathleen Ferrier(Alto) and Isobell Bailey on but there are only CD`S of them.I would recomend this recording.
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on 10 February 2014
If you love the Messiah then you will love this beautiful performance in the magnificent settings of Westminster Abbey. This DVD plus a copy of the 250.th performance in Dublin make for me the ultimate contrasting yet complimentary listening. For less than the price of a ticket to see a single live performance !
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on 6 April 2012
Having enjoyed the original Decca/L'Oiseau-Lyre recording with the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, for years, I looked forward to receive the DVD-version. Unfortunately this is not an exact video version of the original Oxford session, but a later recording at Westminster. The sound mixing is of very poor quality. The soloists are overwhelmed by the orchestra and therefore the unique colour of each of the excellent singers are rarely recognizable.
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