Sylvia McNair / Neville Marriner

George Frideric Handel: Messiah

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AllMusic Review by

The last quarter of the 20th century witnessed a surge of interest in early music and historically informed performances, and one of the Baroque masterpieces that benefitted the most was George Frederick Handel's Messiah, which virtually everyone involved with the movement for authentic period practice reinterpreted and recorded. Neville Marriner and his Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields recorded this engaging version of the popular oratorio in 1992 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Handel's Dublin premiere, and the live performance is notable for its small orchestra and lean chorus, as well as for its revitalized rhythms, crisp sonorities, and spontaneous ornamentation. A streamlined Messiah is closer to Handel's original intentions than the gigantic post-Romantic versions presented by large choral societies and conventional symphony orchestras. Yet because Handel constantly made changes to Messiah and adapted it to changing ensembles and the needs of available vocal soloists, there is no established, final text that can be given an accurate Baroque performance. Marriner's clarification of lines and textures and his scholarly approach put his performance in the authenticist category, even though the Academy plays modern instruments and is not technically a period orchestra. To that end, Marriner's rendition is as close as many groups' performances, and despite the lack of Baroque instrumentation, it still convinces. The soloists are excellent in their embellishment of their arias, and their expressions are reassuringly familiar, though the standout is Anne Sofie von Otter, whose affecting singing is a highlight of this recording.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
1
3:02
2
2:35 Amazon
3
3:11 SpotifyAmazon
4
2:51 SpotifyAmazon
5
1:31 SpotifyAmazon
6
4:21 SpotifyAmazon
7
2:22 SpotifyAmazon
8
0:26 SpotifyAmazon
9
5:16 SpotifyAmazon
10
3:20 SpotifyAmazon
11
2:27 SpotifyAmazon
12
3:50 SpotifyAmazon
13
1:08 Amazon
14
1:40 Amazon
15
1:43 SpotifyAmazon
16
4:29 SpotifyAmazon
17
0:28 SpotifyAmazon
18
5:05 SpotifyAmazon
19
2:11 Amazon
20
2:30 Amazon
21
9:26 Amazon
22
1:53 SpotifyAmazon
23
1:35 SpotifyAmazon
24
3:02 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
1
0:41 SpotifyAmazon
2
2:02 SpotifyAmazon
3
1:33 SpotifyAmazon
4
1:17 SpotifyAmazon
5
0:24 SpotifyAmazon
6
1:56 SpotifyAmazon
7
2:52 SpotifyAmazon
8
0:16 SpotifyAmazon
9
1:20 SpotifyAmazon
10
3:11 SpotifyAmazon
11
1:08 SpotifyAmazon
12
2:21 SpotifyAmazon
13
0:58 SpotifyAmazon
14
2:52 SpotifyAmazon
15
1:46 SpotifyAmazon
16
0:14 SpotifyAmazon
17
1:58 SpotifyAmazon
18
3:42
19
5:21 SpotifyAmazon
20
1:52 SpotifyAmazon
21
0:31 SpotifyAmazon
22
8:29 SpotifyAmazon
23
0:17 SpotifyAmazon
24
1:09 SpotifyAmazon
25
1:59 Spotify
26
4:10 Spotify
27
2:42
28
3:25
blue highlight denotes track pick