Handel: Messiah (CD Review - The Sunday Times, 2009)

You could argue that the radiant soprano Julia Doyle’s coloratura in Rejoice is a little effortful, that the outstandingly good countertenor Iestyn Davies’s decorations are sometimes self-conscious (which decorations should never be) and that the low notes of the fiery bass Andrew Foster-Williams lack sonorousness. But there is no such thing as an ideal Messiah, any more than there is a single definitive text. This one, recorded live at St John’s, Smith Square, last December, comes exhilaratingly near to it. The 16 strings of Britten Sinfonia make the most of Handel’s wonderfully varied accompaniments (their Why do the nations is hair-raising), the 31-strong Polyphony are excellent, the tenor, Allan Clayton, is as good as the other soloists, and Layton’s direction is vivid and masterly.

David Cairns

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