If these highlights from George Frideric Handel's Messiah seem a bit unusual -- sung in German rather than in English, and sounding somewhat more Classical in orchestration than Baroque -- then it's because these are actually excerpts from the 1789 arrangement by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, commissioned by Baron Gottfried van Swieten for his musical society, Die Gesellschaft der Associierten Cavaliere. These excerpts from Helmuth Rilling's complete performance with the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart and the Bach Collegium Stuttgart give a fair representation of the full work, which is roughly three-quarters Handel's, one-quarter Mozart's; considering the number of changes in orchestration, inventive rewriting of some numbers, and trimming of others, the revamped oratorio was found deserving of inclusion in Mozart's catalog of works. The reconstructions are evident from the start in the Sinfonia, which has a much thicker orchestral texture than Handel's strings provided; other adjustments are noticeable in the arias, which have been cleverly adapted to fit the German translation by van Swieten, and in the choruses, which are often adorned with fanciful woodwind parts. Rilling's performance has a rich orchestral sound, and the solo vocalists are attractive, but the choir is a little remote in the overly resonant space, and the overall sound of the recording is a bit too reverberant for fine details to stand out. If you haven't heard Der Messias, K. 572, before, this album is a good introduction and worth checking out before investing in the full recording.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56|