Handel: Messiah, HWV 56 (New Concert Edition by Sir Andrew Davis)

Reviewed on Wed 07 Dec, 2016

Substantial (but sparingly used) instrumental additions include sleigh bells, marimbas, glockenspiel and assorted percussion, with Davis also re-scoring in places and Part 3 reduced by almost half.

HIP-sters be warned: here’s a Messiah to divide opinion. Andrew Davis’s 'new concert edition' springs out of the speakers with all the glossy pomp of a Hollywood blockbuster. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but played with vim and verve by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and sung with feeling by chorus and soloists, it proves an indulgently opulent experience. Happily, Davis doesn’t stray into the unabashed bombast of Eugene Goossens’s version (memorably recorded by Thomas Beecham in 1959 on RCA Red Seal) and he takes a less historically stringent approach than Ebenezer Prout on his own 1986 account of the work with the same orchestral and choral forces on EMI (now Warner Classics). Substantial (but sparingly used) instrumental additions include sleigh bells, marimbas, glockenspiel and assorted percussion, with Davis also re-scoring in places and Part 3 reduced by almost half. Vivid Chandos sound foregrounds the four excellent soloists, and Davis conducts with a fleet, flexible buoyancy that boasts its own engaging directness.
–Michael Quinn