Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
- Part 1. Symphony
- Part 2. Chorus. Surely he hath borne our griefs
- Part 1. Recit. Comfort ye, my people
- Part 2. Chorus. And with his stripes we are healed
- Part 1. Aria. Every valley shall be exalted
- Part 2. Chorus. All we like sheep have gone astray
- Part 1. Chorus. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
- Part 2. Recit. All they that see him laugh him to scorn
- Part 1. Recit. Thus saith the Lord of hosts
- Part 2. Chorus. He trusted in God that he would deliver him
- Part 1. Aria. But who may abide?
- Part 2. Recit. Thy rebuke hath broken his heart
- Part 1. Chorus. And he shall purify the sons of Levi
- Part 2. Aria. Behold and see if there be any sorrow
- Part 1. Recit. Behold, a virgin shall conceive
- Part 2. Recit. He was cut off out of the land of the living
- Part 1. Aria with chorus. O thou that tellest good tidings
- Part 2. Aria. But thou didst not leave his soul in hell
- Part 1. Recit. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth
- Part 2. Chorus. Lift up your heads, O ye gates
- Part 1. Aria. The people that walked in darkness
- Part 2. Recit. Unto which of the angels said he at any time?
- Part 1. Chorus. For unto us a child is born
- Part 2. Chorus. Let all the angels of God worship him
- Part 1. Pifa. 'Pastoral Symphony'
- Part 2. Aria. Thou art gone up on high
- Part 1. Recit. There were shepherds, abiding in the field
- Part 2. Chorus. The Lord gave the word
- Part 1. Recit. And the angel said unto them, fear not
- Part 2. Aria. How beautiful are the feet of them that preach
- Part 1. Recit. And suddenly there was with the angel
- Part 2. Chorus. Their sound is gone out into all lands
- Part 1. Chorus. Glory to God in the highest
- Part 2. Aria. Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
- Part 1. Aria. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion
- Part 2. Chorus. Let us break their bonds asunder
- Part 1. Recit. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened
- Part 2. Recit. He that dwelleth in heaven shal laugh
- Part 1. Aria. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd
- Part 2. Aria. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron
- Part 1. Chorus. His yoke is easy and his burthen is light
- Part 2. Chorus. Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
- Part 2. Chorus. Behold the Lamb of God
- Part 3. Aria. I know that my Redeemer liveth
- Part 2. Aria. He was despised and rejected of men
- Part 3. Chorus. Since by man came death
- Part 3. Recit. Behold, I tell you a mystery
- Part 3. Aria. The trumpet shall sound
- Part 3. Recit. Then shall be brought to pass
- Part 3. Aria. O Death, where is thy sting?
- Part 3. Chorus. But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory
- Part 3. Aria. If God be for us, who can be against us?
- Part 3. Chorus. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
- Part 3. Chorus. Amen
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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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