Handel: Messiah - Jacobs
Harmonia Mundi HMC 801928/29 (2 discs)
Classical - Vocal
Kobie van Rensburg
The Choir of Clare College
René Jacobs (conductor)
The paradoxes of Messiah.
After a magisterial interpretation of the highly theatrical Saul (Editor's Choice in Gramophone, 'Choc' du Monde de la Musique, etc.), René Jacobs now turns his attention to Messiah, in the 1750 version with two alto soloists. Handel subjected the work to multiple revisions according to the solo singers he had available for his annual performances of it in London. However, this public acknowledgment of the work's value came only some years after the oratorio's triumphant premiere in Dublin on 13 April 1742: in order to win over London audiences Messiah had had to confront a cabal that was all the more unjustified in that Handel avoided all dramatisation of the person and Passion of Christ - the exact opposite of Saul, in a sense. But history has amply made up for lost time since then!
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Review by John Broggio - December 3, 2006
In contrast to Harnoncourt's recent account of this masterpiece Handel: Messiah - Harnoncourt, this is much more upfront about the drama and vitality in the music; Jacobs makes no attempt to hide the excitement within whereas Harnoncourt frequently appears to be apologising to rather staid religious musicians for Handel's music. The intensity can almost be overwhelming at times so some may be a little put off - this is definitely evangelical Handel!
The tempi adopted are relatively conventional by the standards of today although some might find the occasional faster movement is taken a notch quicker than some. Reflective and pastoral numbers are given plenty of space to breath and expand. The soloists and choir are all admirable in the technique displayed in coping with the many demands of this music. They all sound in good form unlike in Harnoncourt's version.
Unlike some of the opera sets from Harmonia Mundi, there is no attempt at making use of the rear channels for anything other than ambience. The only word of warning I can issue is that this set is recorded at a relatively high level, so don't turn up the volume too much at first!
A very good Messiah.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net