SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

HANDEL: Messiah – Heather Harper, sop./ Helen Watts, alto/ John Wakefield, tenor/ John Shirley-Quirk, bass/ London Sym. Orch. and Chorus/ Colin Davis – Decca Pure Audio Blu-ray

A radiant and one-of-a-kind reading that ranks as one of the most desirable records ever made.

Published on May 6, 2014

HANDEL: Messiah – Heather Harper, sop./ Helen Watts, alto/ John Wakefield, tenor/ John Shirley-Quirk, bass/ London Sym. Orch. and Chorus/ Colin Davis – Decca Pure Audio Blu-ray

HANDEL: Messiah – Heather Harper, sop./ Helen Watts, alto/ John Wakefield, tenor/ John Shirley-Quirk, bass/ London Sym. Orch. and Chorus/ Colin Davis – Decca 478 5396 Pure Audio Blu-ray (PCM 2.0, DTS MA HD 2.0, Dolby TrueHD 2.0, 24-bit/96kHz), TT: 144:03 [Distr. by Universal] *****:

I am referring everyone who reads these new Universal Blu-ray Pure Audio reviews to my review of the Kleiber Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7 reissue for comments and details on this series in general. Finally we come to a recording that fits this current treatment perfectly. To my knowledge this was never issued in any kind of surround format, or even SACD, so having it here now, a full 144 minutes (essentially two CDs) in high res audio on one Blu-ray disc makes this a release that simply can’t be passed up. The sound is fantastic on each of the three formats (this is an issue originally on Philips, not Decca) that always sounded great, especially in the LP era.

There are many people who believe this to be the greatest recording of Messiah ever issued, and that’s saying a lot as there are so many versions available. Count me among them. If I had to make a desert island pick, this would be the one. It has everything—great conducting, an unmatched quartet, even though as individuals they might not be the “best ever”, though the women here can certainly make that claim—superb playing and singing by the London SO and chorus, and an interpretation that is subtly ornamented with taste and discretion and excitement. The clarity is outstanding, the power of the chorus unmatched, and the sheer love of the music has never come across with such vibrancy and fervor. Davis’s later LSO recording on LSO Live in surround sound is very, very good—but this one is transcendent.

In short, if you love Messiah you must know this recording—and you probably already do—and this is the format to have it in if you care about the finest presentation of the music. Simply one of the best recordings ever made of anything. Get it.

—Steven Ritter




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