21 Dec Messiah – Dunedin Consort
Yes, I know this 21 days survey began with Messiah. But a work as important and inspirational as this deserves more than just a single mention or just one recording in your collection.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I again saw Messiah at the National Cathedral – what is becoming an annual tradition. Perusing the program notes, I made note of the mezzo-soprano – Clare Wilkinson – and a recording she had done of Messiah with the Dunedin Consort. iTunes on the screen and credit card in hand, I purchased yet another Messiah recording. Good choice.
This particular recording attempts to recreate the “Dublin” version of what the first performance might have sounded like in 1742. From the album notes … “the challenge then, in this recording, has been to try to recapture something of the freshness of the first public performances of Messiah, imagining what it was like to hear the work for the very first time when many moments must have been quite unexpected.” That word “unexpected” is key to approaching this version. One familiar with Messiah will hear changes in which selections are sung by different vocal combinations as well as variations and repeats in the music itself. Tempos are often quicker than that which one is often accustomed. Vocal ornamentation and improvisation is sublime and fresh. For one who has been immersed in this work for over forty years, those changes make one’s ears listen even more carefully and in turn, renews a fresh sense of spiritual “hearing” of this powerful narrative.