For what is ostensibly a period performance of George Frederick Handel's Messiah, Jörg Breiding's 2002 presentation is remarkably straightforward and unpretentious, with no outward trappings of "authenticity" to alert the buying public. The score of Messiah used here appears to be a modern standardized edition, not one of the scholarly editions of Handel's variant versions, though the music is suitably ornamented in Baroque style by the solo vocalists and played with 18th century instruments or modern replicas. Furthermore, the use of men and boys and a small instrumental ensemble matches the practice Handel preferred for his London performances, so there's nothing unorthodox or novel attempted here. Perhaps the only thing that might stand out as an unusual feature of this performance is the labored pronunciation of English words by the German singers, where their vowels are exaggerated out of an excess of correctness that leads to mistakes that a decent coach would have caught. But the quality of singing is generally spot-on in intonation, clean in line, and crisp in enunciation, and the blend of the Knabenchor Hannover is quite smooth and even. The sonorities of the Baroque orchestra L'Arco are bright and fresh, and the variety of tone colors and characteristic sheen of the strings make this sound quite as good as many other historically informed recordings of this work. Ars Musici's live reproduction is clean and picks up everything, even a few coughs from the audience.
Handel: Messiah Review
by Blair Sanderson