Helmut Koch

Messiah [Berlin Classics]

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Upon noticing this performance of George Frederick Handel's Messiah is sung in German, one might suppose that this is the version translated by Baron Gottfried van Swieten and arranged by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but such is not the case; the translation is actually by Georg Gottfried Gervinus, a nineteenth century literary historian, and the music is essentially Handel's original orchestration, albeit presented here in modern instrumentation. The oratorio is delivered with virtually no concessions to period practice, except for the use of a harpsichord continuo, and the rather ponderous tempos, heavy textures, relative paucity of ornamentation, and weighty expressions that Helmut Koch and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra bring to Messiah mark it as a mainstream interpretation of the mid-twentieth century and a little behind the times for a recording made in 1973. Certainly, advances in Handel scholarship had led to brisker and lighter readings by that time, but it appears that East German musicians lagged in adopting authentic performance techniques and using Baroque instruments, so Koch's well-intended but fairly stodgy rendition is equivalent to the way performances sounded in the west about 20 years earlier. Even so, this recording offers straightforward vocals, a rich choral sound, and reasonably clean playing in the strings, yet the number of players seems high and yields a rather lush tone. Berlin Classics' reproduction is a little dull, as if the analog recording had lost some upper partials in the process of eliminating tape hiss, but it is satisfactory for most listeners' needs.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
1
4:45 Amazon
2
2:35 Amazon
3
3:33 Amazon
4
3:47 Amazon
5
1:35
6
4:34
7
2:42
8
0:22
9
4:26
10
1:58 Amazon
11
2:15
12
3:04 Amazon
13
4:46 Amazon
14
3:06 Amazon
15
1:49
16
2:00
17
4:20
18
0:24
19
4:56 Amazon
20
3:43 Amazon
21
3:34
22
8:46
23
2:00

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
1
2:11
2
4:29
3
0:34
4
2:38
5
1:46
6
1:21
7
0:24
8
2:25
9
3:13
10
0:15
11
1:24
12
3:08
13
1:21
14
2:07
15
1:30
16
2:49 Amazon
17
1:45 Amazon
18
0:11 Amazon
19
2:03 Amazon
20
4:07 Amazon
21
6:05 Amazon
22
2:16
23
0:38 Amazon
24
10:00 Amazon
25
0:16
26
1:06
27
2:23
28
5:00
29
3:35 Amazon
30
3:26 Amazon
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