Notes and Editorial Reviews
The RIAS Kammerchor Berlin and its chief conductor Justin Doyle present Handel’s Messiah, together with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and an all-British quartet of outstanding soloists, consisting of Julia Doyle (soprano), Tim Mead (countertenor), Thomas Hobbs (tenor) and Roderick Williams (bass). Messiah is not only Handel’s most famous work, but equally one of the cornerstones of British choral culture. Soon after the work’s premiere, a tradition of mass performances full of pomp and circumstance took root, with the Hallelujah as a showstopper. This new period-instruments recording, however, aims to bring the piece back to the size and intimacy of the 1742 premiere in Dublin. The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin has a substantial PENTATONE discography, including Handel’s Concerti grossi Op. 6 and Op. 3, (released in 2019 and 2020), Telemann’s opera Miriways (2019) and CANTATA with Bejun Mehta (2018). The RIAS Kammerchor Berlin, Justin Doyle, Julia Doyle, Tim Mead, Thomas Hobbs and Roderick Williams all make their PENTATONE debut.
The list of solid performances of Handel's Messiah, HWV 56, from outside Britain is growing longer, and this one, released in 2020 just in time for sacred music season, is a case in point. All four soloists and the conductor are indeed anglophones, and they offer much to enjoy. Veteran baritone Roderick Williams is in fine voice, and the silvery soprano of Julia Doyle has a classic Handelian sound with a nice bloom at the top, but Messiah succeeds or fails on its chorus, and the work of the RIAS Kammerchor is as impressive as that of the soloists. The historical instruments of the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin add sharpness in the trumpets and drums. Listeners new to historical performance will find a satisfying and friendly instance of it here.
– AllMusic Guide (James Manheim)