George Frideric Handel: Messiah

George Frideric Handel: Messiah

by PolyphonyPolyphony


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There are so many excellent recordings of "Messiah" that the addition of another only further complicates the decision for the listener, but having such an abundance of riches should be no cause for complaint. Hyperion's recording with Stephen Layton leading the choir Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia is not among the flashiest or most star-studded, but it is immensely musically satisfying. Layton takes something of a middle ground in terms of performance practice; the Britten Sinfonia uses modern instruments, but its players are attuned to the subtleties of Baroque performance, as are the members of Polyphony, a chamber choir with about 30 singers. The small size of the ensembles is an antidote to the bloated numbers that have characterized many performances of the piece, and most importantly, makes possible the agility required to cleanly execute Handel's virtuoso choral writing when the appropriately lively temps are taken. The choir's clarity and precision in movements like "His yoke is easy," whose text demands the kind of dance-like springiness that Layton provides, is one of the strongest arguments for this version. Layton's soloists are likewise superb; they each bring impeccable, effortless-sounding technique and youthful, unmannered freshness to their parts. Julia Doyle's clarion soprano is crystal clear and bright. Iestyn Davies may not have the sumptuousness of some countertenors, but the naturalness of his sound and the purity and evenness of his timbre throughout his range make his a tremendously appealing performance. Allan Clayton's tenor is light but full, focused, and heroic, with none of the preciousness that can characterize English oratorio tenors. Bass Andrew Foster-Williams doesn't have the ideal weight for some of the low-lying solos, but his tone is warm and lovely. Layton's version is also noteworthy for its narrative urgency; it feels like he is telling a story rather than simply stringing together a series of arias, recitatives, and choruses. With clean, present sound, Hyperion's "Messiah" would make a fine first recording and also has much to offer connoisseurs of the work.

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Product Details

Release Date: 11/10/2009
Label: Hyperion
UPC: 0034571178004
catalogNumber: 67800
Rank: 7831


  1. Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56

    1. Part 1. Symphony
    2. Part 2. Chorus. Surely he hath borne our griefs
    3. Part 1. Recit. Comfort ye, my people
    4. Part 2. Chorus. And with his stripes we are healed
    5. Part 1. Aria. Every valley shall be exalted
    6. Part 2. Chorus. All we like sheep have gone astray
    7. Part 1. Chorus. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
    8. Part 2. Recit. All they that see him laugh him to scorn
    9. Part 1. Recit. Thus saith the Lord of hosts
    10. Part 2. Chorus. He trusted in God that he would deliver him
    11. Part 1. Aria. But who may abide?
    12. Part 2. Recit. Thy rebuke hath broken his heart
    13. Part 1. Chorus. And he shall purify the sons of Levi
    14. Part 2. Aria. Behold and see if there be any sorrow
    15. Part 1. Recit. Behold, a virgin shall conceive
    16. Part 2. Recit. He was cut off out of the land of the living
    17. Part 1. Aria with chorus. O thou that tellest good tidings
    18. Part 2. Aria. But thou didst not leave his soul in hell
    19. Part 1. Recit. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
    20. Part 2. Chorus. Lift up your heads, O ye gates
    21. Part 1. Aria. The people that walked in darkness
    22. Part 2. Recit. Unto which of the angels said he at any time?
    23. Part 1. Chorus. For unto us a child is born
    24. Part 2. Chorus. Let all the angels of God worship him
    25. Part 1. Pifa. 'Pastoral Symphony'
    26. Part 2. Aria. Thou art gone up on high
    27. Part 1. Recit. There were shepherds, abiding in the field
    28. Part 2. Chorus. The Lord gave the word
    29. Part 1. Recit. And the angel said unto them, fear not
    30. Part 2. Aria. How beautiful are the feet of them that preach
    31. Part 1. Recit. And suddenly there was with the angel
    32. Part 2. Chorus. Their sound is gone out into all lands
    33. Part 1. Chorus. Glory to God in the highest
    34. Part 2. Aria. Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
    35. Part 1. Aria. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion
    36. Part 2. Chorus. Let us break their bonds asunder
    37. Part 1. Recit. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened
    38. Part 2. Recit. He that dwelleth in heaven shal laugh
    39. Part 1. Aria. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd
    40. Part 2. Aria. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron
    41. Part 1. Chorus. His yoke is easy and his burthen is light
    42. Part 2. Chorus. Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
    43. Part 2. Chorus. Behold the Lamb of God
    44. Part 3. Aria. I know that my Redeemer liveth
    45. Part 2. Aria. He was despised and rejected of men
    46. Part 3. Chorus. Since by man came death
    47. Part 3. Recit. Behold, I tell you a mystery
    48. Part 3. Aria. The trumpet shall sound
    49. Part 3. Recit. Then shall be brought to pass
    50. Part 3. Aria. O Death, where is thy sting?
    51. Part 3. Chorus. But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory
    52. Part 3. Aria. If God be for us, who can be against us?
    53. Part 3. Chorus. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
    54. Part 3. Chorus. Amen

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