Handel: Messiah (CD Review - ottosbaroquemusick.co.uk, 2009)

Make no mistake, this set is a bright star in a lighted firmament of existing Handel Messiahs.

This newly (released 2009) performance/recording of Handel's "Messiah" is nothing short of superb. Conductor Stephen Layton has put together Polyhony, Britten Sinfonia, and four outstanding soloists for what is one of the best "Messiah"s out there.


Polyphony is new to me, but what a chorus they are. Their sound is of average size, yet incredibly transparent with great attention to detail and nuance. Their diction is as good as the chorus of Boston Baroque's is in their "Messiah" recording. Polyphony has a wonderful ability to weave in and out of the counterpoint of the choruses leaving the listener taking in all the shapes, lines and contours all at once. Its a thrilling sensation.

The Britten Sinfonia is outstanding as well. Their playing is clean and articulate. They respond well to Layton's vision of "Messiah" and play an integral part of this performance. While listening, you will be aware of their contribution to what is considered a choral work. They demand your attention.

The four soloists, Julia Doyle, Iestyn Davies, Allan Clayton, and Andrew Foster-Williams are simply all in top form. They are effective in their singing, whether it be the more slow cerebral parts of the work or the rapid coloratura parts. They don't miss a beat. Their ornamentation is never obtrusive and is well worked within their respective solos.

As for Stephen Layton....Bravo! What a splendid treat this recording is. Not knowing what to expect upon purchasing this Hyperion recording, I was pleasantly knocked over within minutes into disc one. The question then arose, "will it keep being this good?' The answer was (and is), "yes."

See Recording Details