Handel: Messiah

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Messiah
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson, Nicole Heaston (soprano), Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano), Charlotte Hellekant (contralto), Brian Asawa (countertenor), John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Russell Smythe (baritone), Brian Bannatyne-Scott (bass); Les Musiciens du Louvre & Choir/Marc
CATALOGUE NO: 471 341-2
Minkowski has a warm rapport with Handel’s music, which impresses itself on this deeply felt if uneven performance, recorded over four years ago in the Salle Debussy of the Paris Opéra Bastille as the fruits of an unusual film project. The opening overture or, more properly, ‘Sinfony’ is effective with just the right degree of weight in the Grave section, noble and serious but neither inflated nor austere. The instrumentalists of Les Musiciens du Louvre form a homogeneous ensemble and there are few disappointments in their contribution. The soloists are a well-chosen group with John Mark Ainsley delivering an authoritatively declaimed introduction to the oratorio. Among other strengths are Magdalena Kožená – she makes much of Handel’s vivid contrasts in ‘But who may abide the day of His coming’ – Charlotte Hellekant, whose ‘He was despised’ is intense and affecting, and Lynne Dawson to whom are happily entrusted ‘How beautiful are the feet’ and ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’. Add to these virtues a supple and well-drilled chorus and you have a Messiah well worth becoming acquainted with. There is no definitive version, for Handel, ever practical, ordered different things for different occasions. Recordings by Christopher Hogwood (Decca L’Oiseau-Lyre) and William Christie (Harmonia Mundi), are among the strongest, but, though they remain top of my league, the new version deserves a place pretty close to them. Nicholas Anderson