Messiah is certainly
Handelís supreme achievement and as
an oratorio the work is without rival.
In 1741 Handel was invited to Dublin
by the Lord Lieutenant of the City and
the directors of several charities.
For the trip Handel decided to compose
a new oratorio. He utilised a script
that Charles Jenner had prepared for
him from the Scriptures.
I have come across
the conducting of Antony Walker previously
on a recent release of Handelís oratorio
Semele on ABC Classics where
he directed the Sirius Ensemble and
the Cantillation choir to great effect.
On this release Walkerís control of
the vocal group Cantillation and the
Orchestra of the Antipodes does not
have anywhere like the same authority
in a generally disappointing reading.
The solo singing on
this ABC Classics release is not spectacular
particularly the unsteady contralto
of Alexandra Sherman who sounds nervous
with a most edgy timbre. The soprano
Sara Macliver gives a rather nondescript
performance which comes across as lacking
in character with little vocal presence.
The counter-tenor Christopher Field,
tenor Paul McMahon and bass Teddy Tahu
Rhodes all give reasonably steady performances
but seem to get caught-up in the general
malaise. The orchestral playing from
the period instrument ensemble is competent
for the most part as is the singing
from Cantillation but the enthusiasm
seems to run out of steam. Any performance
of Handelís Messiah deserves and requires
far more persuasive delivery and commitment
than this bland attempt.
In an extremely crowded
market there are many excellent recordings
of Messiah in the catalogues.
My primary recommendation for the complete
Messiah is the wonderful interpretation
from the Bach Collegium Japan under
Masaaki Suzuki on BIS CD 891/892. Conductor
Suzuki is in total control of his soloists,
chorus and players providing an intense
and inspirational reading which is beautifully
ABC Classics have not
provided any texts whatsoever for this
highlights release which is a shame.
The recorded sound quality is fine.
Rather lacklustre performances
from all concerned. There are many better
versions of Messiah available
in the catalogues.