Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759) Messiah (1742): The Choruses
Stuttgart Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra/Frieder Bernius
rec. Evangelische Kirche, Gönningen December 26-30, 2008 CARUS 83.475 [50:16]
There are no notes whatsoever on the music here: just a thin booklet with artist biographies and the text in English with a German translation. This disc was originally offered in 2008 and was reissued in 2015.
There is much to admire here, and although obviously there is a piecemeal aspect, this disc also reminds one how uniformly strong the choruses in this work are. For the present writer there’s also an element of nostalgia, as it is from an old cassette tape, now lost in the mists of time, that I first encountered the choruses of Messiah. The recording is crystal clear, which complements the performance approach: stylish and generally fast-paced. The Stuttgart Baroque Orchestra specialises in period performance and it shows in the purity of style and delivery.
The Overture is the one track minus chorus: it boasts a lovely, well shaded and phrased introduction and a beautifully pointed allegro; this latter approach benefits also “And the Glory of the Lord” and “And He shall purify”, where in the latter the agile, nippy sopranos are able to despatch their semiquavers with delicious lightness and ease. These are recorded, as everywhere on this disc, so that one can hear all voices perfectly: all counterpoint is pristinely clear. Yet there is depth here, also: “Behold the Lamb of God” is tremendously interior, the scene set by a superbly restrained orchestra-only opening, and “Behold the Lamb of God” exudes the proper sense of reverence.
It is the sopranos again who impress in the superbly sprightly “For unto us a child is born”; they are perfectly together in the opening statement and the phrasing is beautiful. Perhaps “Glory to God” is not a blaze of light, a tad underpowered and even a bit tired: one has to conjecture whether this was towards the end of the recording sessions?
The approach here is perfect for the “Helleluia” chorus, nice and bright; contrasting passages are well shaded. To conclude, the final “Amen” is superb, with some wonderfully restrained counterpoint.
A most beautiful disc; choral enthusiasts need not hesitate.