Review by mwagner1962 November 6, 2005 (9 of 12 found this review helpful)
|Well, I am going to have to agree to a certain degree withe previous review. I was thrilled with everything that Harnoncourt has done before this (Verdi and Mozart Requiems, Bruckner symphonies etc,) but this recording is thrown for a loop because of one major and famous movement, the Hallelujah Chorus.
Before I touch on that, I will first say that the sound is superb. The balance between the soloists and chorus is excellent as well as the space around the orchestra. The individual soloists are all top notch.
However, the Hallelujah Chorus totally derails the performance, which up to that point, is fine. I remember performing Messiah when I was in grad school (I was playing trumpet in an orchestra) and the conductor had assembled about a 350 voice choir (composed on members from several local large churches). It was the totally atheistic rendering by Harnoncourt that made me remember a statement that that conductor made: "I have always liked to conduct church choirs when performing Messiah, because when we get to the Hallelujah Chorus, church choirs sing the words like they mean it and believe it, whereas professionals sing it like they are getting paid".
I cannot even fathom what Harnoncourt was thinking when he started the Hallelujah Chorus. The "For Unto Us is Born" is pretty slow but not as annoying. The text in the Hallelujah is sung with such a limp and unenthusiastic style that makes me wonder if Harnoncourt is in total disagreement with the text (and not to start religious dissent). I wonder if there was any squawking from the recording booth from the producer over the tempos....I really wonder what the audience's response was to the Hallelujah Chorus...since every performance I have ever played, sang in or attended has had the audience stand for the chorus, I bet that the Vienna audience got tired of Harnoncourt's tempo.
Oh well....despite a truly dismal Hallelujah Chorus, the remainder of the recording is fine and worthy of respect. However, this recording (despite the fine sound and excellent chorus and soloists) will not be the final stop in this camper's search for the definitive high res recording of Handel's Messiah...
I hate to harp almost exclusively on the Hallelujah Chorus, but considering that the chorus in question is likely the most recognized and famous of all of Messiah, I imagine that many people will be disappointed with the performance here. Besides, after a performance few people leave whistling "His Yoke is Easy" ;)
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