George Frideric Handel's most famous oratorio, Messiah, is a grand and inspiring anthology of passages from the Old and New Testaments relating to Christ before, during, and after his life on Earth. Messiah's power, lyrici... more »sm, sincerity and profundity make it one of the supreme musical creations as well as an outstanding example of devotional art. This live recording from the handsome twelfth century Pieterskerk in Leiden, Holland provides a superbly atmospheric setting, cutting away to eighteenth century Bible prints and religious paintings by Rembrandt. Featuring the internationally acclaimed Choir of King's College, soloists Lynne Dawson (soprano), Hillary Summers (alto), John Mark Ainsley (tenor) and Alastair Miles (bass), and the Brandenburg Consort conducted by Stephen Cleobury. 140 minutes.« less
Erico Mangaravite | Vitoria, ES Brazil | 11/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a nice surprise: a very good version of Handel's Messiah. Although here we don't see any pretensions of authenticity (like in some performances with no oboes/bassoons, or with the soloists forming part of the choir, etc.), is very authentic indeed. Using the 1752 version, we have a small orchestra, with period instruments (The Brandenburg Consort, including two trumpets, an organ and a harpsichord), and an all-male choir (King's College) - the sopranos are boys with beautiful voices. An excellent team of soloists: the bass (Alastair Miles) haves a strong voice, very adequate to this work; Hillary Summers is a true contralto, with an outstanding timbre, secure at low notes. John Mark Ainsley and Lynne Dawson completes the team - they sing very well, easily in the most difficult passages. Conducting, Stephen Cleobury, an specialist in this field.
The venue is an old church (twelfth century) at the Netherlands, with candle-lit interior: a very calm, pious atmosphere (but some people in the audience must be send to an hospital, to heal his coughing... thank God , they choose to cough only at the moments between the chapters). Camera work is good, with minor faults (like the passage of the trumpeters in front of the camera at the start of "Hallelujah" chorus). But technically speaking, the quality is excellent, as occurs with the sound Dolby 5.1(personally, I would prefer listen more the winds, and less the harpsichord, but the balance of this DVD don't bothered me ).
Unfortunately, there's not extras or subtitles, but you can easily find the chapters (it doesn't occurs in the Haydn's "Schoepfung" DVD, with Schreier conducting).
I'm very satisfied with my copy: the Messiah is a work that lives in my heart - the most wonderful music, the most beautiful message."
Erico Mangaravite | 09/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No one would go wrong getting this DVD. And not just because the other one available on DVD is apparently poor (and Mozart's arrangement). Someone will have to go some to beat this one. My first recording of Messiah was the spritely Davis/Philips of many years back. I was imprinted by it, and it had remained my favorite. Of course, the DVD has the huge advantage of video, but even soundwise I think it has the edge (except for the boy choir -- not my fave). A Messiah is continuously a joy for me, but there are many jewels in addition. The centerpiece is usually considered the chorus "Hallelujah", but, as a trumpet player, I have to put "The Trumpet Shall Sound" in the spotlight also. This splendid piece (for bass and trumpet -- the only such I know of) is longish but thrilling. The trumpeter is Crispian Steele-Perkins, a world class Baroque trumpet player with impeccable technique. (He lost his hyphen and his final Steele "e" on the case notes.) He plays a natural trumpet (can't tell if it's a replica, but looks original) in D, with at least three tuning holes. These are closed by fingers of the right hand until some problem note needs one to be opened. A fair amount of this action is well caught by the camera. This was of considerable interest to me, and I've never seen it so clearly before. The bass, Alastair Miles, is outstanding, and the total effect is exceptional.The vocal soloists are excellent. My ranking would put the bass and soprano (Lynne Dawson) on top, with the tenor (John Mark Ainsley) down a notch and the alto (Hillary Summers) half a head below that. I was most struck by Ms. Dawson. There's always somebody who doesn't get the word, and here that somebody is apparently I. I don't remember seeing her or hearing of her before, but she has been around for a while (born 1956) and has been performing and recording all over the world to rave reviews for years. I probably have recordings she's in and didn't notice. For a microsecond my reaction on seeing her was that she was a movie star lip synching (in an oratorio? Get real!). She looks that good. Needs to be in front of the camera more. And super, super singing. She has that light, fast vibrato, which I like. (Think Jane Powell.) I found Ms. Summers' histrionics distracting, like a silent film star, and her voice was a little covered, but still good. Maybe the review gods will forgive me if I observe that her nostrils are prominent and look like little surgically sculpted angel's wings. Unique.Mr. Cleobury directed well. His tempi were nicely up (like Davis's). When he wasn't needed (as in parts of "Trumpet Shall Sound") he would just stand there, not wave his arms slavishly. The orchestra seemed to have good control of its period instruments. This is not always the case in such performances. (I had to reflect on how horrible a barge of 110 Baroque oboes would be!)I am not a fan of boys' choirs, which I don't think were what Handel and Bach heard in their heads when composing, but were an artifact of the churches' ban on females in their choirs (a peculiar proscription which still hangs on in the Catholic priesthood). Nevertheless, I've never heard one do better. It was not distracting.The camera work was pretty good. I would prefer more orchestra and less choir, and the things to watch on the trumpet are his right hand and embrochure, not the bell of the horn or the left grip on the bell ball. The singers were never seen at full height except at a distance. The trumpets were never shown until Part III, even though they first played in Part I.If I have a criticism, it's the sound balance. Certainly this is a difficult venue -- brick and mortar and stone -- and this was well handled. But the choir overwhelmed the orchestra, and the strings overwhelmed the winds, even the trumpets. When composers use trumpets, they're not kidding, yet you can barely hear them mostly. A good example of how to balance trumpets in oratorios is in the Richter "Christmas Oratorio" (Bach) with André, Gediga, and Oppermann. (An unsurpassed recording of this.) I don't think I ever heard an oboe, at least not while they were featured on camera. I felt the surround channels were used too aggressively in the Dolby 5.1 mix. Kind of ambience with a vengeance, every echo from every brick.Lastly, the DVD has no special features. No history of the piece, nothing on the venue, the period instruments, biographies, performing edition comments, interviews, nothing. A missed opportunity.But, still 5 stars."
"For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth"
Erico Mangaravite | 01/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The best performance currently available on VHS or DVD. Stephen Cleobury conducts an early music ensemble with a small orchestra and a choir of men and boys. This version is SATB (as opposed to SSATB). The soloists are very good, the bass is a profundo, and the alto is deep and rich, and the tenor and soprano handle the ornaments with great facility. The tenor's voice seems to have a baritonal quality to it. The soloists are also very telegenic, especially the tenor and soprano. This performance has been broadcast on PBS several times, so it may be familiar at first viewing. And of course the boy singers are beyond cute.The only visual recording that can compete with it is the one by Christopher Hogwood, but that hasn't been available in any format for some years."
Mr Terry Lane | Blackburn, Victoria Australia | 11/20/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you love the music of Handel then buy this disc. You won't regret it. The performance by the Brandenburg Consort, the Kings College [all male] choir and the four soloists is superb. The video production is tasteful and elegant, shot in 1993 on what appears to have been early HDTV. The picture quality is beautiful, and it is letterboxed -- sadly not 16:9 enhanced, but the picture is so sharp that it easily stands up to zooming to full widescreen.It is just about the best music DVD I have seen -- or heard! Sound is 5.1 Dolby."
"And the glory of the Lord"
Mr Terry Lane | 11/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to imagine a better recording, given that this performance was recorded "live", in front of an audience!The soloists make ample use of vocal ornamentation. The tempo is upbeat. The period instruments are well played, and the trumpeter, Crispian Steele-Perkins deserves a gold medal!The only negative from my perspective is that portions of the sound show obvious signs of compression, not unusual for a European production, but distracting (mildly) to me nonetheless.It should be noted that this recording was not made in the King's College Chapel in Cambridge, but rather in the Pieterskerk, Leiden, Holland."