Magazine article Gramophone

Handel: Messiah, HWV56

Magazine article Gramophone

Handel: Messiah, HWV56

Article excerpt

Handel Messiah, HWV56 (Foundling Hospital version, 1754) Sandrine Piau, Katherine Watson sops Anthea Pichanick contr Rupert Charlesworth ten Andreas Wolf bass-bar Le Concert Spirituel / Herve Niquet Alpha (F) (2) ALPHA362 (116' * DDD * T)

Handel's exact version of Messiah performed at the Foundling Hospital in May 1754 has been reconstructed for memorable recordings by Hogwood (L'Oiseau-Lyre, 4/80) and McCreesh (DG Archiv, 12/97). Now it is the basis for Herve Niquet's reinterpretation--although he makes a few interventions and does not allocate the soprano solos in strict accordance to the 1754 division of duties. At a running time of just under two hours, the quicksilver music-making causes much of the oratorio to skip by briskly without having sufficient rhetorical space and textural depth to guarantee a profound emotional impact--although there are plenty of things to enjoy along the way.

Rupert Charlesworth's unforced fluency fused with the lightly relaxed orchestra in 'Ev'ry valley' is top-notch. Sandrine Piau and the Le Concert Spirituel's strings integrate solemnity and furore together to striking effect when conveying the refiner's fire ('But who may abide'), with vocal embellishments that thrill while never forsaking sense and taste. Niquet's conducting of key moments such as 'For unto us a child is born' have quick momentum and yet are also relaxed and graceful. The trumpets are at an ideal distance in 'Glory to God', during which the overriding impression from the excellent choir is the importance of 'peace on earth'. …

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