Handel: Messiah

This page lists all recordings of Messiah, by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) on CD, SACD, DVD, Blu-ray & download (MP3 & FLAC). Generally, more recent releases are listed first, but with priority given to those that are in stock.

Messiah, based on a biblical libretto by Charles Jennens, was written in the summer of 1741 and first performed in Dublin on 13th April 1742. It was originally intended to be performed during lent but it has become more common since Handel's death for Messiah to be performed in Advent.

Recommendations

Choral & Song Choice
January 2017
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April 2009
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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah

New Concert Edition by Sir Andrew Davis


Erin Wall (soprano), Elizabeth DeShong (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Staples (tenor), John Relyea (bass-baritone)

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis

Experience the transcendent glory of Messiah in Sir Andrew Davis’s new, majestic, must-hear edition of Handel’s beloved classic.

Recorded live for SACD release in surround sound, this unique version makes use of all the colours available from the modern symphony orchestra to underline the mood and meaning of the individual movements. Without detracting from the innate power of the original, the conductor’s score calls for moments of drama, pathos, and even, sometimes, whimsicality. It is supported by substantial brass and woodwind forces, and several percussion instruments (including marimba!). As he explains in a very personal booklet note, this leading British conductor brings immense dedication to what is probably the most famous piece of British sacred music ever composed, this version being one which he has conducted live only a few times, including on this recording. He confesses: ‘Everything I have done instrumentally stems from the enormous respect, even awe, which I feel towards this supreme masterpiece’.

“Davis has thrown every resource of the modern symphony orchestra at the task. The result is rather as if the Disney Corporation had bought the rights to the show...The Toronto Symphony Orchestra plays with terrific spirit, especially the brass, and there are four excellent soloists.” The Times, 2nd December 2016 ****

“A performance I will return to often and with great pleasure.” MusicWeb International, 13th December 2016

“Davis’s new orchestration of Messiah is either, depending on your point of view, an act of unpardonable musical blasphemy or a gloriously tongue-in-cheek tribute to a well-loved masterpiece...the overall effect is just of a lush, Romantic orchestration rather than of forced aural gimmickry.” David Smith, Presto Classical, 2nd December 2016

“This is obviously not a basic ‘Library ‘ Messiah but can be cautiously recommended as a curiosity for those enjoy arrangements and transcriptions.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2017

“Astonishingly well controlled…the solo voices are rich and weighty…[the] flute provides a charming obbligato to ‘How beautiful are the feet’, while the tenor’s ‘Thy rebuke…’ is intensely moving…a remarkable choral achievement” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 ****

Presto Disc of the Week

2nd December 2016

Presto Discs of 2016

Finalist

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - January 2017

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Super Audio CD

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20% off Andrew Davis

Chandos - CHSA5176

(SACD - 2 discs)

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


Miriam Feuersinger (soprano), Flavio Ferri-Benedetti (alto), Dino Lüthy (tenor), Raitis Grigalis (baritone) & Daniela Dolci (organ, harpsichord & musical direction)

Musica Fiorita

Handel’s 'Messiah' is already very well-represented on the CD market with dozens of existing recordings and new productions appearing at regular intervals. Yet this is a very special version, carefully crafted, Halle Händel Edition in hand, from a Basel-based selection of fine vocal soloists and instrumentalists who have all graduated from the world-famous Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

Under the fine direction of Daniela Dolci, singers Miriam Feuersinger, Flavio Ferri-Benedetti, Dino Lüthy and Raitis Grigalis join the ensemble Musica Fiorita for a moving studio recording made in October 2015. For obtaining the nuanced sound aesthetics which define this recording, the chosen cast is deliberately small: alongside the soloists, two voices per part were used for the choir, whereas the instrumental ensemble is composed of two violins and one oboe per part as well as a viola, cello, bassoon, violone, two theorbos, two harpsichords and two positive organs for the basso continuo group. The optimal balance is achieved with the use of natural trumpets without finger holes. All in all, a welcome breath of fresh air for one of the best-known compositions of all times.

Released or re-released in last 6 months

Early Music

Pan Classics - PC10351

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $19.75

Special: $15.80

(also available to download from $20.00)

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


Lucy Crowe (soprano), Tim Mead (counter-tenor), Andrew Staples (tenor), Christopher Purves (baritone)

Le Concert d’Astrée Orchestre et Chœur, Emmanuelle Haïm

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Emmanuelle Haïm has established herself as one of the world’s leading performers, conductors and interpreters of Baroque repertoire, not only with Le Concert d’Astrée, the ensemble she founded in 2000, but with several of the world’s greatest orchestras. Known for her fresh and expressive approach to Baroque music, she has appeared as a guest conductor with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Berliner Philharmoniker. With her own ensemble she has garnered critical acclaim and several international awards, including Victoires de la Musique Classique, ECHOs, Gramophone Awards, and Grammy nominations.

For this English-language recording of Handel’s masterwork Messiah, Haïm is joined by the orchestra and chorus of Le Concert d’Astrée, as well as four outstanding English singers – Lucy Crowe, Tim Mead, Andrew Staples and Christopher Purves.

“The choir and orchestra of Le Concert d’Astrée trot along with the trim rhythms now customary in “authentic” performances of Handel. Occasionally they slice their notes too abruptly for comfort...Among the soloists, Lucy Crowe and Christopher Purves are the most consistently pleasurable.” The Times, 28th November 2014 ***

“The soloists rise to Haïm’s challenge in fine style; all show great flexibility in adapting their voices to expressing a far wider range of emotions than Messiah is normally thought to involve...This is definitely a Messiah worth listening to; lively and varied, it really is a new injection of life into an old favourite work and a recording that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the existing benchmarks.” David Smith, Presto Classical, 8th December 2014

“The delivery of the choruses is crisply focused and shaped impressively, Haïm sensibly opts to hire top-notch English freelancers...There are a small number of occasions when Haïm could have let the music speak more naturally for itself...Nevertheless, the fusion of dramatic mood, orchestral texture and an inspired soloist often pays off handsomely.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2014

“the vocal ornamentation, as sung by the outstanding solo quartet...sounds entirely stylish and idiomatic...Haïm’s choir for this work, too, comprises mainly native English-speakers, and it shows in their trenchant diction. Their Hallelujah is magnificent...One of the most dramatic and exciting Messiahs in recent memory.” Sunday Times, 14th December 2014

“Haïm directs the music with the same sort of Gallic lightness and grace that she absorbed during her early years with the French group Les Arts Florissants...The result is not as exhilarating as some, and sometimes a touch fussy, but Haïm finds expression wherever she looks and Le Concert d’Astrée respond keenly.” Financial Times, 20th December 2014 ***

“Haïm herself proves broadly sensitive to tempo...and balance has been excellently managed in what is a resonant acoustic. Le Concert d’Astrée's chorus numbers 20...they also keep light on their collective feet. The 26-strong orchestra, too, supplies vitality as well as solemnity and flexibility.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2015 ****

Presto Disc of the Week

8th December 2014

Early Music

Erato - 2564624055

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $14.25

Special: $12.82

(also available to download from $12.00)

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


“Christie negotiates both wide-eyed wonderment of the Nativity and the pathos of Part II with aplomb in a performance underpinned by luxury casting and instrumental finesse.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013

Early Music

Harmonia Mundi - HMGold - HMG501498/99

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $12.25

Special: $8.82

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Händel: Der Messias

Händel: Der Messias

(German version by Johann Gottfried Herder)


Handel:

Messiah


Sharon Rostorf-Zamir (soprano), Maria Riccarda Wesseling (alto), Kobie van Rensburg (tenor), Raimund Notle (bass)

Lautten Compagney, Dresdner Kammerchor, Wolfgang Katschner

Deutsche HM - 88725443522

(CD - 2 discs)

$9.75

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


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DG Archiv Duo - 4779574

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $12.50

Special: $8.12

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


Trinity Church Choir and Orchestra, Owen Burdick

Owen Burdick is the organist/director of music at New York City's Trinity Church, where Messiah received its New World debut in 1770.

This disc has previously been available in the United States.

Naxos Clearance - up to 70% off

Naxos - 8554511-12

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $12.50

Special: $3.75

(also available to download from $14.00)

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


“I would happily sit in King’s College Chapel listening to this choir sing for the rest of my days.” (Richard Morrison, The Times)

“Stephen Cleobury’s interpretation ticked all the boxes, with choir and orchestra impeccably balanced and soloists glowing.” (The Independent)

Following the rush-release on CD of the live recording of Handel’s Messiah earlier this year, EMI Classics is now proud to announce the release of the DVD of this extraordinary performance in the magnificent setting of the Chapel of King’s College. The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and the Academy of Ancient Music are conducted by Stephen Cleobury with soloists Ailish Tynan, Alice Coote, Allan Clayton and Matthew Rose.

The DVD of the concert on Palm Sunday 2009 was filmed and produced by Opus Arte.

This Messiah performance was at the heart of the fifth annual Easter at King’s festival and commemorated both the 250th anniversary of the death of George Frideric Handel and the 800th anniversary of the University of Cambridge. The concert was carried via satellite – a first for a live choral concert - and was screened in over 85 cinemas across Europe and North America. Further cinema broadcasts are planned in the US and Canada in November/ December 2009 (maybe in Europe as well), possibly in a 3D version. Further details of these broadcasts will be announced shortly.

The DVD and previously-released CD join the chart-topping CD, England, My England, released in July 2009 and a new live recording of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, to be released in November 2009 as ideal Christmas gifts from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and EMI Classics.

George Frideric Handel’s crowning masterpiece, his oratorio Messiah, was a hit at its premiere in April 1742 and remains among the most popular works in Western choral literature. A native of Germany, the composer lived in England from 1712, where he was considered one of the leading musical figures of his day. In 1741, the year in which he wrote Messiah, however, Handel found himself on the verge of bankruptcy, depressed and broken following the failure of several of his operas. In London it was even being said that his career as a composer was over.

Not so in Ireland, where the Lord Lieutenant and governors of three charitable organisations invited Handel to Dublin to conduct a performance of one of his works for charity. Having recently completed his oratorio Messiah, the composer decided to use the invitation as an opportunity to present this new work to the world. The premiere – at Neal’s Music Hall in Dublin in 1742 – was eagerly awaited by the Dublin public and the hall was sold out.

Handel based Messiah on a libretto by Charles Jennens that employs verses from the bible to present the life of Jesus. The work is in three sections: the Advent and Christmas; Christ’s passion; and the events told in the Revelation to St. John. While the composer intended the oratorio to be secular theatre, today Messiah is performed equally in churches and concert halls, by professionals and amateurs alike, usually during Lent (prior to Easter) or Advent (prior to Christmas).

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge is the world’s most famous choir and one of today’s most accomplished and renowned representatives of the great British choral tradition. The Choir dates back to the 1400s and consists of 16 choristers and 14 choral scholars. Its international reputation, established by the radio broadcast worldwide of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols each Christmas Eve, has been consolidated by regular international tours and by the critical and commercial success of its EMI Classics releases. The most recent releases by the Choir, under exclusive contract with EMI Classics, include England, My England, a patriotic collection of English choral favourites that has been at the top of the UK classical artist charts this summer, the stunning selection of Tudor anthems I Heard a Voice, Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem, Purcell’s Music for Queen Mary with the Academy of Ancient Music, John Rutter’s Gloria, Magnificat and Psalm 150 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Heavenly Voices, in which the Boys of King’s College Choir, in their first solo recording for the label, perform works by Franck, Mendelssohn, Fauré, John Ireland and Patrick Hadley.

The Academy of Ancient Music (AAM), founded in 1973 by Christopher Hogwood, is one of the world’s first and foremost period-instrument orchestras. It takes its name from a London concert society established in 1726 for the purpose of studying and performing ‘old’ music, which was initially defined as music composed at least a century earlier, but soon came to include more ‘contemporary’ composers. The present-day Academy of Ancient Music has performed across six continents and made over 250 recordings, including many pioneering discs under Christopher Hogwood. In addition to making numerous recordings of baroque repertoire, especially Handel, the AAM was the first orchestra to record all of Mozart’s symphonies on period instruments and has since recorded the complete piano concertos and symphonies of Beethoven. It is also recording the Mozart piano concertos with fortepianist Robert Levin and the complete Haydn symphonies. At the start of the 2006-07 season, Christopher Hogwood assumed the title of Emeritus Director and Richard Egarr became Music Director.

“Stephen Cleobury's interpretation … served Handel's piece well….the understanding between the orchestra and the Choir of King's College was remarkable. … the atmosphere in the Chapel, as well as in the cinema, was one of evocative majesty. … Former Young Artist of the Royal Opera Ailish Tynan made Handel's piece shine … One of the finest interpreters of the Baroque repertoire, Coote pushed her expressive power to the extreme. Her engagement with the text was almost surreal … Mimetic camera movements accompanied the singing … providing the audience in cinemas with another level of engagement.” (www.musicalcriticism.com)

DVD Video

Region: 0

Format: NTSC

Early Music

EMI - 2681569

(DVD Video - 2 discs)

Normally: $16.25

Special: $12.67

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


Allan Clayton (tenor), Andrew Foster-Williams (bass), Iestyn Davies (countertenor) & Julia Doyle (soprano)

Polyphony & Britten Sinfonia, Stephen Layton

2CDs for the price of 1

‘No-one, but no-one performs Messiah better every year than the choir Polyphony under the conductor Stephen Layton’ (Evening Standard)

Polyphony and Stephen Layton’s live Messiah at St John’s Smith Square has become one of the highlights of the musical season. The joyful sincerity and urgent brilliance of the performers has brought the familiar story to life again and again. Now this wonderful experience is available on disc, recorded in 2008 for a new release that will surely prove a strong competitor in a necessarily crowded market. Polyphony is joined by the Britten Sinfonia and a quartet of magnificent young soloists – all variously acclaimed as the premier Handel singers of the new generation.

“…underpinned by the incisive modern instruments of Britten Sinfonia, the new release has both a fine sense of style and is full of refreshing insights… Tempos - after a slightly low-key start - are well judged, and the choir, the odd momentary hint of strain aside, sings with an effortless control and well-modulated fluency that takes wing when gutsiness is added to the mix.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2009

“…there is plenty of music-making here that has the lightness, textures and vocabulary of period style, but there is also the spiritual grandeur (and interventionist treatment of the score) of the great Northern choral society tradition. Julia Doyle is a charismatic Angel/narrator... and her embellishment recapitulation of the line "I know that my Redeemer liveth" is spine-tingling. Andrew Foster-Williams's singing is marvellous... Iestyn Davies's... ornamentation in "But who may abide" is masterful for its stylish vocabulary and expressive wisdom... Layton's affection for the oratorio is frequently discernible, not least in the technical and communicative qualities of Polyphony's exceptional singing of the choruses.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2009

“The 16 strings of Britten Sinfonia make the most of Handel’s wonderfully varied accompaniments (their Why do the nations is hair-raising), the 31-strong Polyphony are excellent... and Layton’s direction is vivid and masterly.” Sunday Times, 20th December 2009 ****

Early Music

Hyperion - CDA67800

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $14.00

Special: $11.90

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Handel: Messiah

Handel: Messiah


‘John Mark Ainsley sings with remarkable spiritedness throughout, exhibiting an accomplishment and beauty of his articulation in his early numbers which afford constant repetition.’ Gramophone

Booklet note and sung texts.

2009 is the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death.

The Messiah was written at great speed by Handel during the winter of 1741–2, and was received to great acclaim its first performance in Dublin in 1742. Charles Jennens compiled the text from the Bible, and the work is cast in three sections. Although a success in Dublin, the work had a less than warm welcome when it was performed in London without its title, and called ‘a New Sacred Oratorio’ to avoid causing offence to the rather puritanical British public and press. This ruse failed however, and the press were hostile. Jennens and Handel also fell out, as Jennens felt that the composer hadn’t taken enough time and care over the music! This was a low point for Handel, and he seriously contemplated leaving the UK and returning to Germany. Eventually, after a few years, and after a series of performances for charitable causes, the work became a firm favourite. It has been linked ever since with the composer’s generous charitable donations to the Foundling Hospital, of which he was a director along with William Hogarth and Thomas Coram. Messiah is the masterpiece of the English Baroque, and for 200 years has been performed by both professional and amateur choirs around the world. Handel’s gift for truly memorable tunes and (notwithstanding Jennens’s concerns) the care he took in setting the text have ensured that it has remained one of the most famous works ever composed.

Early Music

Brilliant Classics Musica Sacra - 93948

(CD - 2 discs)

Normally: $9.50

Special: $7.60

(also available to download from $10.00)

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