Handel: Messiah

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Messiah
PERFORMER: Midori Suzuki (soprano), Yoshikazu Mera (alto), John Elwes (tenor), David Thomas (bass)Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: CD-891/2
With forty or so complete recordings and countless discs of highlights, a Japanese performance of this most beloved of English choral works may seem an unlikely contender. Yet the Bach Collegium Japan has already established itself as one of the most interesting period ensembles specialising in Baroque music, and this account has much to recommend it, not least Suzuki’s obvious affection for the piece. The sound is warm and detailed, though occasionally the voices are swamped by the orchestra; tempi are thoughtfully judged and the fresh-voiced choir sings with remarkable clarity and impeccable diction. Suzuki has chosen two very young Japanese soloists for the soprano and countertenor parts, alongside two highly experienced English singers for the tenor and bass. Soprano Midori Suzuki has a light, boyish voice, not without imperfection but affectingly naive; countertenor Yoshikazu Mera has an innocent, tender alto range that belies a surprisingly powerful lower register; tenor John Elwes is agile, lyrical, perfectly focused; and David Thomas makes an imposing, if somewhat stentorian, bass. By pitting innocence against experience, Suzuki has achieved a particularly moving account. Kate Bolton

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