LABELS: LSO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Messiah
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton (soprano), Sara Mingardo (contralto), Mark Padmore (tenor), Alastair Miles (bass);Tenebrae Choir; London SO/Colin Davis
CATALOGUE NO: LSO 0607
Sir Colin Davis’s way with Messiah, as recorded live at the Barbican last December, is old-fashioned by present-day standards. Vocal decoration is kept to a minimum and there are few concessions to period instruments (except for trumpets and drums) in the LSO’s line-up. That doesn’t, of course, invalidate it, but it won’t please those for whom authenticity is the bottom-line.
His soloists are all good. The soprano, Susan Gritton, is a light-toned charmer. A genuine alto, Sara Mingardo has an emotionally affecting tone and her English is only mildly accented. Mark Padmore’s clean and direct tenor offers singing that is musically and textually expressive. The stentorian tones of Alastair Miles are impressive and his runs impeccable, though dramatically his approach is a little too all-purpose.
The Tenebrae Choir, with its thirty-odd voices, proves near ideal for a performance on this sort of scale, and their sheer neatness is a delight. And whatever the lack of period sensitivities among the LSO, there’s no denying that this is high-quality playing, even if the music’s character registers more strongly with period forces. One or two tempos may be on the slow side, but generally Davis motivates Handel’s music with dynamism. The sound is airy, clear and well balanced, marred only by the odd suggestion of Davis himself singing along. He contributes a short though not especially interesting interview to the additional DVD, which mainly comprises filmed highlights from the concert.
Mark Padmore, as it happens, is also the soloist in William Christie’s performance with Les Arts Florissants, which has won consistent praise amongst period-instrument accounts.