This live German recording of Messiah is based on a manuscript Handel marked up for a performance of the work in Dublin, adding a variety of new dynamic markings and ensemble indications. There's no reason to regard it as quite the definitive version of the work that it is proposed to be by the booklet here; it can equally well be considered an experiment on Handel's part in dealing with the new stylistic currents of his day. For listeners unfamiliar with it, this version carries quite a few surprises. Sampling merely the beginning of the "Hallelujah" chorus, CD 2, track 16, is enough to give the listener an idea of what he or she is getting into as the usually muscular entrance of the choir contracts to a quiet, angelic effect. The work becomes much more varied in texture and a good deal less monumental overall.
It would nevertheless be a shame if this recording were pigeonholed among the Dublin versions, for it has a good deal to offer any Messiah listener. Billed as an uncut, historically informed performance, this recording becomes, in the hands of conductor Jürgen Budday, a nice fusion of the immediate feel of the best historical performances (aided by fine live engineering in the impressive, sonically clear spaces of Germany's Maulbronn Monastery) with a rich, more conventional sound from a good-sized German choir, the Maulbronner Kammerchor. The combination of German choristers who render the word "of" as "uff" with veteran anglophone soloists is a little odd, but not seriously distracting, and Budday gives the soloists a chance to stretch out in the recitatives. Collectively the performers capture the different strands of Handel's experience -- operatic, English Protestant, solo-oriented, and instrumetnal -- that he brought to bear on this magnificent work, and they produce a rich Messiah of unusually strong impact. The live recording has a few flaws, but they are more than overcome by the edge thus generated. Notes are in German and English, but the text is in English only.