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Handel: Messiah / Boult, Sutherland, Bumbry, Mckellar, Ward

Release Date: 10/10/2007 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 433003   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Kenneth McKellarGrace BumbryDame Joan SutherlandDavid Ward
Conductor:  Sir Adrian BoultRichard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraLondon Symphony ChorusRoyal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Strange as it must seem today when the battle flag of 'authenticity' is being raised on every side, it was not until Boult's 1954 recording of Messiah, anti this one seven years later, that any serious attempt was made to get away from the faulty text, false nineteenthcentury traditions and inflated scale that had distorted that masterpiece into a mere ponderous seasonal rite. The impulse had come from Julian Herbage, a scholar who, after several efforts at cleaning up the score (in one of which I remember taking part), brought out a purified edition in 1935 for Handel's 250th anniversary, reworked it in 1942 when his first score was thought to have been destroyed, and collated the two when it was discovered after all to be intact.
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Much water has flowed under the bridges since then, but though we think we know more now, due honour should be paid to the pioneers. The claim made here of "original instrumentation" however did not preclude the use of considerably larger forces (particularly in the amtter of strings) than Handel had; and the problems of eighteenth-century rhythmic conventions had not been fully grasped, so that there is no double-dotting in, for example, the overture or "Bee-hold the Lamb of God". A more serious flaw is the inconsistency of style among the soloists, all of whom sing the notes exactly as written except Sutherland : in a way to which we have now become accustomed, she introduces appoggiaturas, little trills (executed with wonderful ease) and numerous passing-notes, and is not afraid to decorate "Behold and see" or the cadence of "Rejoice greatly": but this unilateral approach means that, for instance, the two halves of "He shall feed his flock" do not match at all. Sutherland unfortunately invests much of her singing with a sentimental pathos which is quite inappropriate to such words as "glad tidings", and lacks affirmation in "I know that my Redeemer liveth". Bumbry, not always im peccably in tune, sounds positively dejected at telling good tidings to Zion, and McKellar, clean as is his singing, conspicuously lacks a messa di voce in "Comfort ye" or any real fire in "Thou shalt break them".

The best of the soloists is the resonant-voiced Ward, who shows much artistry in his quiet singing particularly; but even he is overcareful in "And I will shake", makes an unconvincing accelerando in "For behold", and loses pace in one of the "rage" fioriture of "Why do the nations". The chorus, firm in tone and clear in its runs throughout, emerges well from a rehearing of this set; and behind everything lies the sensibility of Boult, who brings to the performance a spiritual conviction that helps one overlook incidental weaknesses.

-- Gramophone [11/1978]
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Works on This Recording

Messiah, HWV 56 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Kenneth McKellar (Tenor), Grace Bumbry (Mezzo Soprano), Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano),
David Ward (Bass)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  London Symphony Chorus
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741; London, England 
Date of Recording: 1961 
Language: English 
Notes: This performance is also available on Cassette, London 421-212. 
Jephtha, HWV 70: Waft her, angels, through the skies by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Kenneth McKellar (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1752; London, England 
Date of Recording: 1960 
Language: English 
Notes: This selection is preceded by the recitative "Deeper and deeper still..." 
Judas Maccabaeus, HWV 63: Sound an alarm! by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Kenneth McKellar (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747; London, England 
Language: English 
Notes: This selection begins with the recitative "My arms! Against this Gorgias I will go." 
Samson, HWV 57: With plaintive notes by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1743; London, England 
Language: English 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 masterpiece recovered January 6, 2016 By Willie Andersen See All My Reviews "I had the vinyl version of this since 1972 but the CD version is remarkable - glad I could find it" Report Abuse
 The best version of Messiah recorded February 6, 2012 By P David Eastburn (Van Nuys, CA) See All My Reviews "I am so thrilled to get this CD set after so long searching for it. I first bought the reel to reel stereo version of it in 1962. There was a CD version available for only a short time. So, I bought the boxed record set but did not want to open it, it was that sacred to me not to spoil one groove. So after nearly 50 years my ears are once again listening to perfection. Joan Sutherland (soprano) and Kenneth McKellar (tenor) excel in their interpretations of Handel's masterpiece. Sir Adrian Boult subltely conducts the London Symphony Orchestra when needed and opens up on the choral sections. If you want the epitome of Handel's "Messiah" this is the one you want!! Hands down." Report Abuse
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