The Locker Room

December 26, 2004

Re: Handel's Messiah

Posted by Hal Young at 5:20 PM

Jon, the 1979 recording was re-issued in 2002 on CD; you can sample and order it here.

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Re: Handel's Messiah

Posted by Jon Sanders at 10:39 AM

Hal, I'd like to hear that version sometime. Is it only on tape?

In my opinion, minimal vibratto is always good. Some soloists, and Leonard Bernstein appeared to favor them in his recordings, go to such extremes that they're sounding the "wrong" note about half the time. I understand that vibratto shows exceptional talent, but does it have to be displayed at the expense of the ears?

Your discussion of tempo and flourish for some reason reminded me of an essay (I believe by George Bernard Shaw) complaining about performances of The Messiah by English choruses because they so often failed to perform the texts without making them sound mechanical, e.g. "Tellit Outa Mongthe Heathen."

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Re: Handel's Messiah

Posted by Hal Young at 00:07 AM

Jon, I'll agree to the Romantic orchestration, but I'll offer my favorite recording is not the Beecham rendition (which I've been playing quietly in the office this week) but the 1979 London Philharmonic recording on Sparrow Records. I think the tempos are better. I know I wore out one set of those blue tapes and I think I nearly did the second before I ever got another version.

My all time favorite performance, now, was a local sing along in 1996, when a soprano in the Wilson (N.C.) Church Musicians Guild sang "He Shall Lead His Flock" totally without operatic flourish -- simple, clear, and expressive of what the Puritans called "heart religion". Even the vibrato was minimal, just enough you knew she knew how. Wow, wow, wow.

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