~ HWV 56 ~

Linn Records CKD 285
full price
Recorded in 2006.
Released in 2006.

Susan Hamilton, soprano
Annie Gil, contralto
Clare Wilkinson, contralto
Nicholas Mulroy, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass

Dunedin Consort and Players (on period instruments)
Director: John Butt





Messiah was already very successful during Handel’s time and thus the many performances of this work result in many different sources and many different versions, with none of them being a ‘definite’ one. There is a plethora of recordings available which globally seem to prefer the 1750’s versions, probably mainly because of the arias remodeled for the alto castrato Gaetano Guadagni – later to become Gluck’s Orfeo. In this new recording, John Butt didn’t listen to the Sirens and has recorded, at last, a version which is very close to the original one first performed in Dublin in 1742. The conductor explains clearly his approach in the booklet. Thanks to the choice of version, this release is particularly interesting, and not just another good recording of Handel’s Messiah. The fact is that this recording doesn’t lack good qualities and is definitely the result of very good team work. Butt’s conducting is particularly stylish and accurate, and both the orchestra and the choir are excellent. Nevertheless, we can regret that there is no countertenor in the cast; in 1742 they had some of the alto solos together with Mrs Cibber. The whole result is slightly lacking in dramatic dimension, and the soloists are sometimes just honourable or average. The weakest are a tenor who tends to force, and a soprano with an excessively boyish and tense voice – although there is a nice ‘Rejoice greatly’, limitations are explosed in slow passages like ‘Behold, and see’ or ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’.

© Philippe Gelinaud - July 2007

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