“From the 1940s until the early 1960s one of the greatest of regular British musical events (every bit as important as the Proms) was Malcolm Sargent's Messiah. He conducted it up and down the country, always to packed houses; indeed, to be able to attend the performance at Huddersfield Town Hall, you needed very special connections, for tickets were scarcer than an invitation to Buckingham Palace! Sargent usually omitted – as he does here – three numbers from Part 2 and four from Part 4. Even then, the performance time was two and a half hours without the interval. Apart from spacious tempos, He had his own ideas about Handelian style. Today we usually listen to a quite different kind of Messiah: brisker, often exchanging grandeur for exhilaration; so it's heart-warming to have the opportunity to return to a great tradition that Sargent kept alive for so many years. This is made possible by one of Dutton Laboratories' most miraculous 78rpm transfers – the finest ever heard taken from 78s of any music – of Sargent's extraordinarily vivid and expansive recording (the most spontaneous of the three he made). The four splendid soloists – that queen of oratorio sopranos, Dame Isobel Baillie; the rich-voiced Gladys Ripley; the warmly lyrical James Johnson; and the vibrant Norman Walker are right inside their parts. But the star of the performance is undoubtedly Isobel Baillie. Her first entry in 'There were shepherds' is a truly ravishing moment, while her gloriously beautiful 'I know that my Redeemer liveth' has never been surpassed on record. Sargent opens the work with a sumptuous presentation of the Overture, while his tempos for the choruses now sound very slow to ears used to 'authenticity'. He believed deeply in this music and he carried the listener with him. The hushed close of 'All we like sheep' almost brings tears to the eyes. The sound itself is truly astounding. At bargain price it's an ideal investment for anyone who relishes an old-fashioned, large-scale approach to Handel's Messiah.”
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