Top critical review
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There are Better
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.