With so many fine-to-great Messiah’s already available, who stands to benefit from this lackluster, hardly serviceable offering? William Boughton’s conducting is pedestrian at best–the performance lumbers along politely, ignoring every one of Handel’s many opportunities to soar. This is especially excruciating in the choruses: rarely have “And he shall purify”, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates”, and “Let all the angels of God worship him” not to mention “Hallelujah” advanced with such leaden, dispassionate propriety.
Barthold Heinrich Brockes’ text for the passion oratorio, later named after him, is among the best-known Passion librettos of the early 18th century. This version is the first recording on CD of the work based on the copy made by J S Bach himself. It is distinguished from the better-known version by a different text for the opening chorus.
Peter Neumann strikes a powerful blow for some reassessment of Handel's version. He is assisted above all by Markus Brutscher's Evangelist which has urgency, cogency and clarity in equal measure. Markus Flaig's Jesus is also effective as is the relatively modest contribution by the Cologne Chamber Choir. (BBC Music Magazine)
Mortensen's magnificent direction brings out the full measure of excitement, pathos and emotion in Handel's score…[the production] conveys an enormous amount of what makes Partenope very special.–Gramophone
Following several acclaimed albums of Handel’s operatic and choral masterpieces (including a triumphant Giulio Cesare with Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra and the oratorio La Resurrezione with British soprano Kate Royal), French harpsichordist and conductor Emmanuelle Haïm at last brings her fresh, expressive approach to Messiah. Joining her on a musically and spiritually uplifting journey for this long-awaited recording is Haïm’s own choir and period-instrument orchestra, Le Concert d’Astrée, with four of the UK’s finest Handelian singers. Having begun her career as a brilliant harpsichordist and protegee of Baroque pioneers William Christie and Christophe Rousset, Haïm has a long history with Messiah.
While this is not nearly as essential as some other Stax wax, it has a loose, raffish appeal and never falls into the murk of a boring super-session chopsfest. These guys were simply havin' fun with some standard soul/R&B covers (e.g. "What'd I Say," "Baby What You Want Me To Do") and some wide-open originals, kickin' back with some serious riffin'. Cropper proffers his usual intense, simplistic soloing, while King swoops and dives in a stringbending fury. The added plus is the silky smooth near-falsetto of Pop Staples, whose vocal on "Tupelo" is suitably eerie…
Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus, RV 807, was added to the Vivaldi canon only in 2005; it was long attributed to Baldassare Galuppi. That shows you how minor composers don't get their due; it's a marvelous work, but it's only getting recordings now that Vivaldi's name is attached to it. At any rate, it's well worth hearing in this excellent performance by the rising British group La Nuova Musica, which has both vocal and instrumental components. They move like a well-oiled machine, making possible the clear communication of such vivid details as the musical depiction of a stream in the strings in the countertenor aria De torrente in via bibet (track 8) and the unusually elaborate fugue that concludes the work.