Review from New Classics by John Pitt
"George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah was composed in 1741 and premiered at the Music Hall in Dublin in 1742. At the time of this composition Handel was at the peak of his musical powers but depressed and in debt, so he worked at breakneck speed, completing Messiah in only 24 days, supposedly while staying as a guest at the country house (Gopsall Hall) of the work’s librettist, Charles Jennens. It soon became one of the most popular works in Western choral literature, especially known for its ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. Handel conducted Messiah many times, often altering the music to suit the needs of the singers and orchestra available for each performance. More variations and rearrangements were added in subsequent centuries - including one by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Handel died in 1759 and as part of its contribution to this 250th anniversary Warner Classics & Jazz has released two-CD sets of five different performances of his most famous work. All are sung in English, except for the one performance of Mozart’s version. Some are more English than others, but all have something to say about this much loved music - still sung frequently by choirs throughout the UK. Raymond Leppard conducts English Chamber Orchestra and Chorus and an outstanding cast of soloists - Felicity Palmer, Ryland Davies, Helen Watts and John Shirley-Quirk (WCJ 2564 69283-5). Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Stockholm Kammerkören and Concentus musicus Wien, with Elizabeth Gale, Marjana Lipovsek, Werner Hollweg and Roderick Kennedy (WCJ 2564 69282-4). Yehudi Menuhin conducts the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and Kaunas State Chorus, with Susan Roberts, Liliana Bizineche-Eisinger, Algirdas Janutas and Benno Schollum (WCJ 2564 69282-4). Ton Koopman conducts The Sixteen and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, with Marjanne Kweksilber, James Bowman, Paul Elliott and Gregory Reinhart bass (WCJ 2564 69282-6). Michel Corboz conducts the Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de Lausanne in the Mozart arrangement, with Audrey Michael, Magali Dami, Jard van Nes, Hans Peter Blochwitz and Marcos Fink".