Notes & Reviews:
Handel's Messiah has been recorded many times and in many settings with various ensembles, and yet never loses any of its strength. This historic recording of Leonard Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic, and the Westminster Choir was made in the 1950s. With Bernstein at the podium the result is obviously dramatic, theatrical, and very intense. It is also a bit unorthodox as Bernstein used his own edition which regrouped and reordered the numbers into a "Christmas section" and an "Easter section."Notes & Reviews:
This version of Handel's 'Messiah' could quite possibly be feasible today only as a Bernstein reissue. The quest for authenticity has overtaken the performance and recording of early music, and even a conductor recording 'Messiah' without attempting a historically-informed style of performance wouldn't dare introduce the level of revision that Bernstein did for this 1956 recording and the Carnegie Hall performances which preceded it.
The irony here is that Bernstein's rearrangement of the sections works as the dramatic sequence he intended, and his reasons for doing it make sense. He made no claims to authenticity and didn't apologize for mucking about with a "masterpiece." Bernstein saw the second part of the work as falling into two sections: switching them put the "joyful" music of the latter half of Part II immediately after Part I (the "Christmas" section), reshaping the whole work into two large parts rather than three.
This is a powerful, vibrant 'Messiah' with elegant solo singing and a chorus which could sing softly when necessary and let the great choruses rip through. Although not for purists, it is both a fascinating document of Bernstein's concept of the piece and a performance well worth owning.
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