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Handel: Messiah / Davis, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Release Date: 11/18/2016 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5176  
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  John RelyeaErin WallElizabeth DeshongAndrew Staples
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Symphony OrchestraToronto Mendelssohn Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Davis lays more emphasis upon musical than dramatic values, with splendid playing and thrilling contributions by the nearly 150-voice chorus. Unlike light (or “lite”) Messiahs of the past quarter century, Davis’ is rich, warm, and weighty without being turgid or lugubrious (tempos middle-of-the-road to fast). Winds augment, sometimes dominating or replacing strings; snare drums work only in the already somewhat militaristic “Thou shalt break them,” but tambourines lend an appropriately festive air to “Great was the company.” As befits the conception, the soloists all have larger voices than typical. Excellent sound.

– The Absolute Sound

I have no hesitation in recommending this as an
Read more enjoyable second or third Messiah for anyone’s collection. It is, for sure, too idiosyncratic—and indeed truncated—to be a first choice or an appropriate recording through which to learn the work. But if your palate needs refreshing after hearing too many Messiahs that sound pretty much identical, then go for it. You would be a hard-hearted listener indeed if you didn’t feel invigorated by what Davis has to offer.

– MusicWeb International

The radical and experimental approach to the orchestration here is something of a throwback to the needlessly interventionist past, but that does not make the reading any less enjoyable—although it is not one for purists. Recorded live on SACD, this unique version makes use of all the colours available from the modern symphony orchestra to underline the mood and meaning of the individual movements. Without detracting from the innate power of the original, the conductor’s score calls for moments of drama, pathos, and even, sometimes, whimsicality. It is supported by substantial brass and woodwind forces, and several percussion instruments (including marimba!).

– Classical CD Choice Read less

Works on This Recording

Messiah, HWV 56 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  John Relyea (Bass), Erin Wall (Soprano), Elizabeth Deshong (Mezzo Soprano),
Andrew Staples (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toronto Symphony Orchestra,  Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741; London, England 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  4 Customer Reviews )
 Bravo Handel and Davis November 5, 2017 By G. Brown (River Edge, NJ) See All My Reviews "After hearing the Beecham recording of Sir Goossen's blasphemous orchestration of Handel's masterpiece, I was sceptical of this release. However, Sir Andrew's orchestration is not only marvelously conceived, it draws out inner detail of Handel's masterpiece that, in a good way, maximizes the harmony, drama and word painting of the work without bombastic histrionics. It is an orchestration that is faithful to the great Handel. I believe Handel himself would be pleased. Highly recommended." Report Abuse
 My "Big" Wonderful Messiah June 4, 2017 By Joseph F. (Stamford, CT) See All My Reviews "Wow! Just what I was looking for in a recording of Handel's "Messiah"-- a big orchestra and chorus version that still retains the quick pace and excitement of the period instrument movement. Some of the old recordings, pre- revival of gut strings and two-on-a-part singing of the Handel warhorse, sound wonderful in their own ways, but they can sound ponderous compared to current "thinking" on Handel. This recording has the massed forces playing with new "additions" by Sir Andrew Davis at a very decent speed and with great dynamic variation and excitement. If no one else is at home, crank this up and have a great evening. This is my "go to" politically incorrect version of "Messiah" it is wonderful. Oh, and don't get me wrong, it's not bombastic or overdone in any way. It is aesthetically very pleasing, and the aria, "I know my Redeemer Liveth" may be the best I have ever heard." Report Abuse
 Handel Messiah, Andrew Davis/Toronto Sym December 23, 2016 By CHARLES B PYKE (Logan, UT) See All My Reviews "Excellent recording!! My best adjective for this entire album is REFRESHING! Mr. Davis uses a new orchestration, using modern instruments, of the timely Baroque classic, pitched to today's A-440..... but it sounds like a very proper ensemble of instruments appropriate to the period. This recording compares very favorably with the "standard" of modern Messiah performances, the 1959 recording by Sir Thomas Beecham. The soloists are excellent. Mr. John Relyea is amazing! He is listed by Wikipedia as a bass-baritone, but sounds like a powerful contra-basso, with a superb upper extension. He can sing a strong F#-2, but also reach E-4 with ease. It is very comfortable to listen to this performance. Musicians like myself, and other listeners alike, can enjoy a critical hearing or a casual listen, without any strain or discomfort. This recording is one for the ages! Hats off to Jim Svejda, KUSC-FM, for playing this new recording on his evening program, 12/22/2016! Charles B. Pyke Pianist, Baritone, and Composer Symphonic Compositions, LLC (435) 755-3220" Report Abuse
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