Among traditional, large ensemble versions of George Frederick Handel's Messiah, this 1986 recording by Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has held up rather well over the years and has become a favorite for many listeners. While not pretending to be an authentic Baroque performance -- Davis conducts the large Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, rather than a smaller-sized choral group, and the orchestra plays modern instruments and is fully staffed -- there are nonetheless crisp rhythms, clean lines, and evenly blended harmonies that make the choruses feel light and limber and not at all stodgy. In terms of articulation and ornamentation, this rendition has few embellishments or period touches and is generally straightforward in execution, so no one could mistake it for any of the historically informed recordings of, say, William Christie, Trevor Pinnock, or Christopher Hogwood. Apart from matters of interpretation and style, many listeners will want to hear this Messiah for the outstanding vocal soloists, soprano Kathleen Battle, mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar, tenor John Aler, and bass Samuel Ramey, who all deliver exceptional performances, though Aler and Ramey give their turns extra measures of virtuosity and emotional coloration. This may not be the recording of choice for Handel scholars or early music purists, but it has found a warm spot in the hearts of amateurs and aficionados alike, and its expressive strengths and technical assuredness, as well as its warm recorded sound, should keep it in the catalog for years to come.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2