December 24, 2004
In appreciation of Handel's Messiah
Posted by Jon Sanders at 12:40 AM
While not Christmas music per se, since only the first part deals with the birth of Jesus, nevertheless Handel's Messiah is in my mind inseparable from the Christmas season (and, of course, the Easter season). It amazes me that this great oratorio was completed in three weeks. When performed ably, can it fail to inspire?
Ah, but performance is a question now — especially when purchasing a CD. Do you buy one performed on modern instruments or on period instruments? Large orchestra or the smaller, more historically correct "Handelian" orchestra? Let tastes dictate.
For my part, having bought several different versions before finally settling on one, I learned that I preferred the approach taken by Sir Thomas Beecham for RCA in 1958. A full Romantic treatment: double the orchestra and Wagnerian soloists. Generally I prefer more traditional fare, but I believe Beecham's approach is right, given the subject matter. The music resounds. It blows away every other recording of the piece I had. The difference was as stark as between the Victor dog hearing "his master's voice" and this famous guy.
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, Hallelujah!
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