George Frideric Handel, La Chapelle Rhénane, Benoît Haller - Messiah

Published Tuesday 11th June 2013
George Frideric Handel, La Chapelle Rhénane, Benoît Haller - Messiah
George Frideric Handel,  La Chapelle Rhénane, Benoît Haller - Messiah

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi

This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

There are so many recordings of Handel's 'Messiah' that a new one is always in danger of going missing in the crowd. Benoît Haller and his ensemble La Chapelle Rhénane would only agree to make a live recording of this work, whose immense popularity is reflected in its virtually uninterrupted performing tradition, once they had come to terms with their innovative musical options: to go beyond superficial virtuosity and attain a new and authentic fervour and sincerity. Here is a powerful and highly personal version of this timeless, universal masterpiece, marked by the intense commitment of 12 vocal soloists chosen for their specific vocal colour and their fidelity to Handel's music. Vocally this is indeed an excellent performance with the 12 singers, three to each part, shining both in their solos and particularly in the choruses. Two of the altos are counter-tenors so the 12 are eight men and five woman which is neither praise nor criticism but merely comment. The singers are a mix of French and Germans based in Strasbourg and there are one or two points where accents are detectable so "with his stripes ve are healed" but, generally, the enunciation is very clear and easy to follow. It is a live recording and there are times where the small orchestra come close to swamping the choir although during "When the trumpet shall sound" it matters not at all and mostly the audio quality is more than adequate. I was happy to label this as a safe recommendation but nothing more until we reached "Hallelujah". Here Haller starts slowly, too slowly being my first response, but he builds the intensity until it becomes the great climactic shout of triumph that we know and love and even with just 12 singers the power of Handel's vision is overwhelming. Yes, the massed choirs at the Albert Hall approach can be most effective but this chamber recording is, in its own way, equally compelling. There are cheaper recordings available but this release is well worth its price.

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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