G.F. Handel – Messiah – Nikolaus Harnoncourt - 2005 ( 2 х SACD-R, ISO)

G.F. Handel – Messiah – Nikolaus Harnoncourt – 2005 ( 2 х SACD-R, ISO)

Composer: George Frideric Handel
Performer: Arnold Schoenberg Choir
Orchestra: Concentus Musicus Wien
Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2 SACD-R
Format: ISO
Bit Depth: 64(2.8 MHz/1 Bit)
Number of channels: 5.0, 2.0
Label: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
Size: 7.96 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes
Server: rapidgator

G.F. Handel – Messiah – Nikolaus Harnoncourt 2CD

CD1:

01. No.1: Sinfony: Grave-Allegro Moderato
02. No.2: Accompagnato: Comfort Ye My People
03. No.3: Air: Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted
04. No.4 Chorus: And The Glory Of The Lord
05. No.5: Accompagnato: Thus Saith The Lord
06. No.6: Air: But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming
07. No.7: Chorus: And He Shall Purify / Recitative: Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive
08. No.8: Air: O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion
09. No.9: Accompagnato: For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover The Earth
10. No.10: Air: The People That Walked In Darkness
11. No.11: Chorus: For Unto Us A Child Is Born
12. No.12: Pifa / Recitative: There Were Shepherds
13. No.13: Accompagnato: And Lo! The Angel Of The Lord Came Upon Them / Recitative: And The Angel Said Unto Them
14. No.14: Accompagnato: And Suddenly There Was The Angel
15. No.15 Chorus: Glory To God In The Highest
16. No.16: Air: Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter Of Zion / Recitative: Then Shall The Eyes Of The Blind
17. No.17: Duet: He Shall Feed His Flock
18. No.18: Chorus: His Yoke Is Easy
19. No.19: Chorus: Behold The Lamb Of God
20. No.20: Air: He Was Despised

CD2:

01. No.21: Chorus: Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs
02. No.22: Chorus: And With His Stripes We Are Healed
03. No.23: Chorus: All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray
04. No.24: Accoompagnato: All They That See Him, Laugh Him To Scorn
05. No.25: Chorus: He Trusted In God
06. No.26: Accompagnato: Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart
07. No.27: Arioso: Behold, And See If There Be Any Sorrow
08. No.28: Accompagnato: He Was Cut Off Out Of The Land Of The Living
09. No.29: Air: But Thou Didst Not Leave
10. No.30: Chorus: Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates / Recitative: Unto Which Of The Angels
11. No.31: Chorus: Let All The Angels Of God Worship Him
12. No.32 Air: Thou Art Gone Up On High
13. No.33: Chorus: The Lord Gave The Word
14. No.34a: Air: How Beautiful Are The Feet
15. No.35a: Chorus: Their Sound Is Gone Out
16. No.36: Air: Why Do The Nations So Furiously Rage Together?
17. No.37: Chorus: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder / Recitative: He That Dwelleth In Heaven
18. No.38: Air: Thou Shalt Break Them
19. No.39: Chorus: Hallelujah!
20. No.40: Air: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth
21. No.41: Chorus: Since By Man Came Death
22. No.42: Accompagnato: Behold, I Tell You A Mystery
23. No.43: Air: The Trumpet Shall Sound / Recitative: Then Shall Be Brought To Pass
24. No.44: Duet: O Death, Where Is Thy Sting?
25. No.45: Chorus: But Thanks Be To God
26. No.46: Air: If God Be For Us
27. No.47: Chorus: Worthy Is The Lamb

Harnoncourt has produced a rather paradoxical reading of the score. The choruses are intimate, even hushed, and in contrast, the solos are given a nearly operatic intensity. It feels as if the conductor is trying to tie Messiah to Handel’s earlier Italian operas in London, rather than presenting it as a fresh departure from the same. (The truth probably lies between the two.) Schade and Larsson are particularly dramatic. Schade snarls with contempt for the crowd as he describes the mocking of Christ and again in “Thou shalt break them,” and Larsson waxes lachrymose in “He was despised.” In “Why do the nations,” Finley sounds duly exercised about the nations raging together and the people imagining a vain thing. None of this is wrong; it’s just stronger stuff than we usually get. On the other hand, the “Hallelujah!” chorus almost sneaks up on us. Rather than presenting it as the work’s climax, Harnoncourt makes it a super-smooth and seamless part of the whole. There are no shrieking sopranos and screaming trumpets here!

In an introductory note, Harnoncourt explains some of the decisions he made in preparing this Messiah. These include string ensembles of different sizes at different points in the work, and a relatively free approach to rhythm, as suggested by the conductor’s perusal of the autograph score. (Listen to the bass’s “Thus saith the Lord” for an example of Harnoncourt’s flexibility.) The conductors eschews boys, gives “But who may abide” and “Thou art gone up high” to the alto, and makes “He shall feed his flock” a duet for the soprano and alto. The “Pifa” is played in its first version, but Harnoncourt chooses later versions of both “How beautiful are the feet” and “Their sound is gone out.” The well-drilled, soulful chorus and the orchestra are small but not stingy-sounding.

Schäfer sounds a bit more reticent here than she has on other recordings. At any rate, her singing has a touching, appealing fragility here. Larsson, on the hand, is an imposing alto – it’s almost as if The Mikado’s Katisha had wandered in from a Gilbert and Sullivan society! Among the four soloists, she is the most memorable. Michael Schade is melting in his opening accompagnato and aria, and convincingly militant in “Thou shalt break them.” Finley lacks the dark sound I look for in “Thus saith the Lord” and “The trumpet shall sound,” but to be fair, he’s probably pretty close to what Handel had available to him in the 1740s.

This is a live performance – really, a composite of several – from December 2004. You won’t notice the audience though, except at the beginning and between some of the numbers. This is helpful, because what’s Messiah without a feeling of occasion? Live recording can create that feeling, and at least to some degree, that is what happens here. The engineering is first-class. (N.B., although this is a Super Audio CD, I heard it on a conventional CD player.)

Although this probably would not be a safe first choice for the reasons given above, this is a very worthy Messiah, and it sounds better and better the more one hears it.
~Copyright © 2006, Raymond Tuttle

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