In Handel's day this best-loved of all oratorios was performed by fewer than forty instrumentalists and a chorus, less than thirty strong, of boy trebles and men. That is the tradition to which Christopher Hogwood has returned in his performances with the Academy of Ancient Music.
Members of the Academy all play instruments of the period or accurate modern copies. In this recording the choruses are sung by boy trebles and male altos, tenors and basses, members of the Choir of Westminster Abbey. The soloists improvise embellishments in the arias and, in certain cases, join in the singing of the choruses, just as they would have done 240 years ago.
The recording takes full advantage not only of Westminster Abbey’s fine acoustic qualities, but also of the incomparable architectural splendour of the surroundings.