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Penguin Guide, January 2009

It is curious that the first DVD of Messiah should be Mozart’s German version, and the additional scoring for woodwind, horns and brass certainly gives the orchestra an 18th-century sound, while the three trombones add to the weight of the choruses. Ironically, in the truncated Sie schalft die Posaun the trumpet sounds only very modestly and much of the instrumental obbligato is given to the horn, for there were no solo performers readily available on high baroque trumpets in Mozart’s time. Quite reasonably, the conductor here, Helmuth Rilling, has opted for a traditional rather than a period-style performance, and he deliberately opts for spacious, though not leaden, tempi. The result remains enjoyable and quite fresh. Rilling has a splendid team of soloists, and an excellent chorus. No one could complain of a lack of power and impact in Hallelujah, and the closing Würdig is das Lamm and Amen are equally impressive. The key solos all come off well. The tenor and bass are excellent, though, despite beautiful singing from Donna Brown and Cornelia Kallisch, neither I know that my Redeemer liveth nor He was despised are as moving sung in German as they are in English. Nevertheless, overall this is very enjoyable; the camera angles are not too fussy, and the backcloth of the Stadtkirche Ellwangen in Stuttgart is visually pleasing. However, as this is not a live performance, the empty all resonance does tend slightly to blur the choral focus.

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