Washington National Cathedral / Michael McCarthy

George Frideric Handel: Messiah

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The annual performances of Handel's Messiah at Washington National Cathedral are a holiday-season staple in the U.S. federal district, and this lavishly packaged recording, made live at the cathedral in 2007, may be intended partly as a souvenir for those who have attended the event. It's a performance for those who enjoy something lying in between the English cathedral style and the hearty American Handel and Haydn tradition. The Washington National Cathedral Choir under conductor and music director Michael McCarthy is mixed in both gender and age, consisting of boy sopranos, girls from ages 11 to 18, and adult male countertenors tenors, and basses. It's an unusual sound that combines purity and muscle, and for an ad hoc choir containing children it has an impressively clean sound. They're accompanied by a so-called Washington National Cathedral Baroque Orchestra that's moderate in size (six violins, two each of violas and cellos); it is apparently basically the same ensemble as the Washington Baroque Orchestra and is lightly oriented toward historical performance. The overall effect is careful but festive, not necessarily what you're looking for if you want to hear 300 voices blasting out the "Hallelujah" chorus, but accomplished and distinct from the zillions of other Messiah recordings out there. Booklet notes, including the full text and a short history of the work, are in English only.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Messiah, HWV 56
1 3:22
2 2:49
3 3:16
4 2:41
5 1:32
6 4:23
7 2:39
8 0:22
9 5:15
10 2:12
11 3:35
12 4:18
13 0:58
14 0:15
15 0:20
16 0:40
17 0:17
18 2:05
19 4:37
20 0:30
21 5:17
22 2:32
23 3:01
24 10:09
25 1:41
26 1:37
27 4:02

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Messiah, HWV 56
1 0:46
2 2:11
3 1:45
4 1:33
5 0:18
6 2:14
7 3:03
8 0:13
9 1:24
10 3:20
11 1:07
12 2:10
13 1:13
14 2:47
15 1:40
16 0:11
17 2:03
18 4:07
19 5:52
20 2:09
21 0:34
22 4:10
23 0:19
24 1:04
25 2:04
26 4:54
27 8:01
blue highlight denotes track pick