Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Handel - Messiah (1985)

Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed by Handel in 1741 with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The work is divided into three parts: the first deals with the birth of Christ, the second with Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, and the third with the final victory over sin and death and the acclamation of Christ. Around this time of year, there are many performances of the oratorio which usually consist of Part 1 to which the Hallelujah chorus from Part 2 is added at the end. Of course, every conductor has his/her own preferences.

There is no such thing as a definitive musical text of this work. This recording uses the John Tobin edition, which subdivides the 3 parts of the work into 16 scenes, which consist of 47 movements (the recitatives are not numbered). Admittedly, I'm partial to the choruses. My favorites are:

No. 1 Symphony
No. 4 Every Valley Shall Be Exalted
No. 7 And He Shall Purify
No. 11 For Unto Us A Child Is Born
No. 21 Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs
No. 22 And With His Stripes
No. 30 Lift Up Your Heads
No. 39 Hallelujah
No. 42 Behold, I Tell You A Mystery
No. 43 The Trumpet Shall Sound

When I purchased this CD in the late '80s, I practically worshiped the CSO and Solti, so I bought this recording without doing any research. It's a good interpretation, but not great and certainly not definitive. The tempos are slightly fast and many notes are a clipped attempt at staccato, but all-in-all the orchestra and continuo performs well. The soloists here are the big problem, mainly because they were opera stars so they sing this baroque work like they are singing Wagner. Te Kanawa, in particular, slides in and out of notes as if she couldn't be bothered to make this recording. Even though I'm not a big fan of choral works, I'm very open to recommendations for better recordings of this work. I should note, however, that these liner notes are very thorough and include the complete libretto.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: My earliest memory of the complete work concerns my parents forcing their pre-teen son to travel 70 miles each direction to hear a community orchestra and chorus perform this oratorio one Sunday afternoon. I was way too young to appreciate the work. I'm fairly certain I took a nap.

I've performed portions of this work, having learned both the tenor and bass parts. For the record, I prefer singing bass, but truth be told, I'm not a good enough singer to pull off either part. However, at a recital during my senior year in college (April 1988), I performed No. 43 The Trumpet Shall Sound. I played the piccolo trumpet while a friend sang the aria. Piccolo trumpet isn't easy to play, but I don't think I embarrassed myself. Much to my chagrin, the student worker in the music office who typed up the program chose to title the work The Trumpet Should Sound. I don't know who did it or whether it was an intentional slight, but I was plenty upset at the time. 20+ years later, I think it's rather funny.

1 comment:

  1. How come you didn't mention a certain car trip over Christmas where we performed all 4 parts of the Hallelujah Chorus acapella??