Handel's Messiah - The Guardian
08 December 2006The Guardian
The association of Handel's Messiah with Christmas is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Its subject is the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy in the entirety of Christian revelation, and for more than two centuries after its first performance, the oratorio was generally considered more appropriate to Easter or Whitsun. Nevertheless, today, performances and recordings of the piece tend to proliferate in the run-up to the festive season. One might, of course, wonder whether any new version can shed further light on the work, though [this] performance [is] often startling in impact.
Rather than using one of the various posthumous conflations of material, [he] re-creates a specific performance, as overseen by the composer himself. John Butt's version with his Dunedin Consort and Players presents the score as it was heard at its 1742 Dublin premiere. Some of the arias in the Dublin text are radically different from the versions we usually hear. Butt has an authoritative bass in Matthew Brook, and a superb contralto (one of three) in Clare Wilkinson, whose heart-stopping delivery of the words "And ye shall find rest unto your souls," sets the tone for the whole performance.
Related LinksDunedin ConsortMessiah (Dublin Version, 1742)