This disc has 14 excerpts from Mackerras' ground-breaking recording, which is now difficult to find. (Time for a re-issue, EMI.) It uses Basil Lam's edition, who re-examined Handel's score and helped sweep away a lot of the entrenched opinions about Messiah and how to perform it. Yet there are none of the excesses of some of today's "historically influenced" performances, and some of the tempi are quite leisurely in comparison. The chorus is of moderate size but with convincing weight, the orchestra likewise and it is all performed with expression and vitality and well recorded.
The full recording features the countertenor Paul Esswood in some of the arias but he does not appear on this disc. The four soloists here are first-class, and Elizabeth Harwood's singing of the 12/8 version of "Rejoice greatly" should not be missed, nor should Raimund Herincx's "Why do the nations". The real jewel, however is Janet Baker's "He was despised". I have never heard this famous aria sung better (and I have heard dozens of performances). The disc is worth the money for this alone.