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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 23 September 2010
I have been thoroughly enjoying this version of Messiah. The soloists sing clearly and both choir and soloists interpret the work with feeling and meaning.
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on 6 January 2013
In the last 40 years or so Baroque music has fallen into the hands of the academic purists and the original instrument brigade. I have some difficulty with their approach. Bach and more so Handel were both very emotional artists who wanted for nothing more than their music to be loved and to move us emotionally in the way they intended. They were very aware of the lack of top class musicians and the limitations of their instruments. Personally I have no doubt that modern orchestras would have been employed by them often should they have had the opportunity. The Messiah would certainly have been one of those. The small forces in the original score were necessary because Handel knew that the orchestra available was of very limited capability. Should you want a recording leaning in that direction then this one may well please you. John Rutter is a fine musician and I enjoy much of his work but I am luke warm about this one.

I personally prefer the large concert hall modern version of the Messiah, and there is none better than the RCA recording by Sir Thomas Beecham conducting his own orchestra. It may take you a couple of listenings to be won over because most of us have been brain washed into believing all baroque music should be played at break neck speed. However, music of this gravity is merely trivialised by this technique.
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VINE VOICEon 8 May 2016
Admirers of Rutter and the Cambridge Singers would surely find much to enjoy in this rendition of Messiah.

As a performance on modern instruments at A=440Hz there is much to enjoy. It comes across as a very well put together performance with Rutter in charge of the proceedings. I tend to like performances where the choral conductor also leads the orchestra. This allows the chorus and orchestra to perform as one unit, rather than as two separate units. Yet, I find that it lacks a little bit of spark and immediacy that lifts the best performances of this much-performed oratorio.

Rutter's performance has a strong team of hand-picked soloists. I admit that they take time to warm up, but they all give assured readings of each of their solos. Joann Lunn is a superb, pure-toned soprano who shines in her solos. Her superb readings of the soprano numbers can take their place alongside the renditions offered by Dame Kiri, Lynne Dawson and even Carolyn Sampson. I admit that Lunn takes time to warm up in her Rejoice greatly section, but her portion of He shall feed His flock and I know that my Redeemer liveth sound fine. Gilchrist takes time to warm up with his Comfort ye, but he gives a bracing and spirited reading of Ev'ry valley I note that he fares better in the Part Two sequence starting from "Thy rebuke" and continuing on to "But Thou didst not leave." His Thou shalt break them is an absolute highlight, as he relishes the sharp attack of the strong words. The two lower-voiced soloists who were Cambridge Singers alumni fit well into Rutter's performance. Melanie Marshall has a bit of trouble in the two Guadagni solos (But who may abide and Thou art gone up on high). I note that she has some difficulty in managing the difficult coloratura runs in the Refiner's fire section. Elsewhere, she offers a bracing reading of O thou that tellest and a stark reading of He was despised. Completing the line-up of soloists is Christopher Purves, who has sung the bass part on three Messiah recordings to date. His voice is firm yet not woolly, and his diction is clear. He handles the long version of Why do the nations, highlighting the words "furiously" and "vain", and he brings panache to his rendition of The trumpet shall sound.

The star of this performance is, of course, the Cambridge Singers. They offer top-notch readings of all the choruses. Though this is a 30-strong choir, the sound is still full-bodied and powerful From their first entries in their Glory of the Lord chorus, the choral sound is bracing and open, and they adapt well to the different moods of each number. Though each section is light-footed in the clear textures of, for instance, And He shall purify or All we like sheep, the homophonic block-choral sound is stkil full-bodied. Backing up the singers is the RPO. Though it played for Beecham's mammoth Messiah in the 1950s, it adapts well to the smaller-scale approach of Handel's original scoring.

Why am I not giving this Rutter performance full marks? It's through no fault of the singers, the chorus, the orchestra or conductor. At times I wished there could be a bit more immediacy and vitality in a Messiah performance. I couldn't quite put my finger on why, but I felt this performance could do with a little more presence. Also, I noted that the orchestra was balanced backwardly compared to the singers. In most other Messiah recordings, the engineers highlight the orchestra as a unit so it can be equal with the singers. When the orchestra supports the singers and has an important part to play, the engineering on this version makes it sound recessed. I notice this in All they that see Him and Thou shalt break them. I longed for the orchestra to be recorded at the same level as the singers.

Still, this Rutter recording of Messiah is a fine effort on modern instruments. I know that many post-60s Messiahs may be too anorexic for many listeners, and I know that lots of post-1960 recordings may be symptomatic of shallow and soulless music-making that is part and parcel of recent epochs. I can think of many other Messiahs using Handel's original scoring that capture more immediacy and vitality, among them the Butt-Dunedin version or even my preferred choice of the Cleobury'King's College version (the live Pieterskerk version on Brilliant Classics). Even so, Rutter's lovingly crafted version is still a respectable and very good recording in its own terms. Buyers can't go wrong if they purchase this version, since the price is so good.
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on 4 January 2014
I went to a concert in Halifax, it was wonderful. On leaving I purchased a copy of the Messiah but was disappointed to find it was not the full version & it was a brass band. How different is my complete work of the Messiah, Cambridge Singers. I am so happy that I purchased it. Thank you for stocking it and for delivering it so quickly. Happy New Year to you all at Amazon
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on 27 November 2011
We are totally satisfied with the product and service. My wife was singing in a multi-choir production performance of the Messiah and used the disc as a rehearsal tool at home with every success.
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on 30 December 2015
mother in law loved it.
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on 6 May 2013
The full works and a delight to listen to. Most CD's give the highlights but this one as said has the full works and I discovered many tracks that I had not heard before.
Well worth buying.
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on 23 April 2014
A very good interpretation of the work - some beautiful singing throughout and the soloists are especially good. A very good copy to hold in your collection
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on 15 May 2013
Using it for choir rehearsals, very good. Very informative, first class as one would expect from John Rutter, and the Cambridge Singers.
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on 1 December 2012
A good choice and reasonable price for a double CD set. The tones and production is extremely good. My biggest challenge now is to sing like it in the choral society to which I belong. A truly inspirational recording. Four days after ordering it was posted through my letter box and I could not wait to put it on. A lifetime of further pleasure awaits me.. Oh joy. Thank you
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