George Frideric Handel, Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus - Messiah

Monday 1st April 1991
George Frideric Handel, Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus - Messiah

STYLE: Choral
RATING 4 4 4 4
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 29976-
LABEL: EMI CMS7636212
FORMAT: CD Album

This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct


Reviewed by Dave Massey

This is a re-mastered recording of the Messiah, directed by the German conductor Otto Klemperer. It was made at a time when Baroque music was nowhere near as popular as it is today. A much larger orchestra is used than one would find in an authentic setting and with the more mellow modern instruments. This kind of setting is just as valid as a Baroque orchestra but I'm afraid that the rather more heavy approach of Klemperer and the almost operatic delivery of some of the arias makes it a no-no for me. The appearance of the Heavenly Host singing "Glory To God" is robbed of it's potency by a rather quiet and ethereal interpretation designed to heighten the impression of 'them up there' and 'us down here' (Bass) singing "Peace On Earth", Klemperer's interpretation seems to show a complete lack of understanding of the words, let along Handel's marking of Forte in the manuscript. The import of 'Suddenly', 'Multitude', 'Host', and 'Glory' is missed. The bass aria (sung by Jerome Hines) "Thus Saith The Lord" feels too slow and deliberate, but of all the soloists Mr Hines comes out with the greatest credit. The soprano, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf never really comes into her own, with too much vibrato and a rather breathless entrance in "Rejoice Greatly" - due to Klemperer's slow tempo which turns a flowery, joyful aria into a mechanical exercise. She gives a better account of herself however in the next aria' "He Shall Feed His Sheep". If you want a copy of Messiah that will give you a different interpretation, then you may appreciate this recording more than I did. For me, Klemperer misses the spirit and on some occasions the content of Messiah.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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Reader Comments

Posted by cameron paul in london @ 02:40 on Feb 21 2014

Could not disagree more. This is music making of the highest order with Klemperer giving, as usual, an insight into the music which is totally lacking in any of the contemporary accounts. Yes, I could wish forslightly faster tempi at times and overall I find Grace Hoffman a bit detached in her singing but the playing of the Philharmonia and the quality of the Philharmonia chorus are unmatched in any other recording I have ever heard. A performance for the ages, not just for the current fashion.



The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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