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American Record Guide: (09-10/2020) 
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Reviewer: Donald R. Vroon

This is the Goossens orchestration from 1959. That was recorded the same year by Sir Thomas Beecham with the Royal Philharmonic and some stunning soloists. 60 years after that recording, one might imagine that a new recording could bring some improvements, at least in sound. No. I hear no improvement in sound over Beecham's recording, which had particularly beautiful sound. Beecham took about 145 minutes, but added an appendix of 17 minutes. Only 'The Lord Gave the Word' is here from that appendix. (All the rest was true Handel and is usually performed nowadays.) In fact, apart from the choruses Beecham is slower and more expressive; he allows his soloists more room to convey the Biblical poetry. Since his soloists were wonderful, no one has matched his Messiah for poetry and beauty of expression. Jennifer Vyvyan, Monica Sinclair, Jon Vickers, Georgio Tozzi—you can't beat that team, though I like the bass here, Christopher Job. He hasn't the sheer beauty of voice of Tozzi, but often he strikes just the right chord in his interpretation. Claudia Chapa is the alto soloist here, and she has a particularly rich voice—which makes up for a few moments that seem not quite right. I'm afraid I dislike the voice and manner of tenor John McVeigh; maybe the word that describes it is "glassy". The soprano often sounds as if the conductor is pushing her; the tempos in her airs can seem uncomfortable and rushed. Her voice has more wobble than I prefer. Beecham wanted to counteract the tendency to plainness and leanness and smallness that was beginning in his time. Yet he did not want to return to bloated choruses with sluggish tempos. To compensate, he was a little too brisk in the choruses. But he let his soloists do their operatic best to convey emotion and devotion. So one of the best elements of the original 1959 Beecham is the soloists. This orchestration is sometimes odd—for example, too much percussion (even cymbals—there are three percussionists besides the timpanist)—but often wonderfully warm and colorful. Goossens often fell back on Mozart's orchestration in making this. Unfortunately there is no organ here. I especially like recordings with a big organ, such as the ones led by Andrew Davis. The chorus here is much bigger than Beecham's, and the conductor obviously knows how to get the best from choral singers. The 'Hallelujah Chorus' is slower and much better than Beecham's. He is obviously a choral conductor, and their parts are the best parts. In that way he gives us a different take on this Messiah orchestration. The recording was made in 2019 at the Abbey Road Studios. It sounds a little too close-up and studio-bound. The music needs more space to fill—it needs "hall sound" or even church sound".


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