Jordi Savall's prolific output of recordings on Alia Vox is hard to pigeonhole because his expansive repertoire runs from some of the most obscure early music of the Old and New Worlds, to well-established classics like George Frederick Handel's Messiah. Recorded live at a December, 2017 concert in the Chapelle Royale du Chateau de Versailles, this performance of Messiah is based on the 1741 autograph score in the British Library in London, essentially re-creating the Dublin version, with restored oboe parts taken from the part-books for the 1754 Foundling Hospital version, and with four vocal soloists instead of Handel's original group of nine. Savall uses a small orchestra selected from Le Concert des Nations and his chamber chorus, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, to convey the scale of an early performance, as opposed to the more lavish post-Romantic arrangements with hundreds of musicians, which have become mainstays to modern audiences. Lean in its original orchestration, and particularly athletic in the choral writing, Messiah is shown to be an exciting combination of virtuosic counterpoint and dramatic scene painting, as well as a deeply compelling meditation on the life of Christ, without the excessive reverence of 19th century interpretations or the tasteless bombast of over-the-top modern re-orchestrations, such as those by Eugene Goossens or Andrew Davis. Anyone seeking a satisfying period interpretation of Messiah would do well to try this exceptional recording, which has clearly been a labor of love as well as a well-researched scholarly effort.
Georg Friderich Händel: Messiah Review
by Blair Sanderson