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Handel: Messiah (Highlights)

Highlights from the world's best-loved sacred choral work

The Cambridge Singers | Royal Philharmonic Orchestra | Joanne Lunn soprano | Melanie Marshall (mezzo-soprano) | James Gilchrist (tenor) | Christopher Purves (bass-baritone)
John Rutter (conductor)

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30 favourite excerpts from The Cambridge Singers/John Rutter/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's complete performance, including the Christmas section, the Pastoral Symphony, the Hallelujah Chorus, and I Know that my Redeemer Liveth.

Joanne Lunn soprano
Melanie Marshall mezzo-soprano
James Gilchrist tenor
Christopher Purves bass-baritone

“Rutter’s excellent feel for this music, his intelligence, and his sturdy and steady hand, make this – in my opinion – the finest modern-instrument recording since the legendary Philips release by Colin Davis in the 1960s.” Fanfare Magazine

“Not surprisingly, John Rutter’s is essentially a traditional performance, but with lively tempi and no lack of expressive feeling; and it is very well recorded indeed … altogether a fine set which will give much pleasure” The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs

“This recording deserves its rightful place among the numerous accounts of this timeless masterwork”. The American Organist

“Rutter’s work with his Cambridge Singers is well known: they live up to their high reputation in every way in this performance. Diction is crystal clear, intonation is faultless, vocalism is vibrant and robust, with fine dynamic shading, harmonic balance, and contrapuntal clarity. The superb soloists are well matched. Their ornamentation is tasteful and effective, never overdone. The solo trumpet provides some excellent extemporized ornamentation in The Trumpet Shall Sound and Blessing and Honour. The production team gives the soloists a prominent position, while maintaining overall balance with chorus and orchestra within the pleasantly reverent space. The result is a natural, lively sound.” The American Organist

“Rutter’s recording is a traditional approach to this iconic work; it includes no surprises. All of the arias are presented in their familiar versions and Rutter’s soloists avail themselves of opportunities for appropriate ornamentation, but their choices are tasteful, and never extravagant. The soloists will not be familiar to many, but they are clearly exceptional in their understanding and execution of the music, singing with enviable emotion, gravitas, and tenderness, making them far more than merely reliable participants.  Rutter’s Cambridge Singers are equally impressive in their poise, agility, verve, and beauty of tone. The musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are on their game as well, supporting the soloists and chorus with effective, stylish, and energetic playing throughout. The acoustics of All Hallows, Gospel Oak, provide the ideal sonic warmth and aural bloom without obfuscating Handel’s textures. This release effectively combines tradition, scholarship, and common sense in a way that few have or can. Rutter’s excellent feel for this music, his intelligence, and his sturdy and steady hand, make this – in my opinion – the finest modern-instrument recording since the legendary Philips release by Colin David in the mid 1960s…” Fanfare Magazine

“Recorded in an (appropriately) warm and resonant church acoustic, this version has a much more chamber-like feel. The orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic (modern instruments, etc.), is scaled down much more drastically than Davis’s LSO and is more obviously ‘behind’ the singers. The whole approach is consequently much more fleet of foot, ‘modern-traditional’, with particularly light, fresh-voiced singing from a choir of 9-6 (four female, two male)-6-8, which is one of the outstanding features here. For example, against Let us break their bonds asunder I wrote the single word ‘Terrific!’ Rutter’s soloists (and even trumpeters) have the licence to add occasional embellishments and to ornament the cadences. So James Gilchrist dashes the potter’s vessel with some suitably whiplash additions of his own. His gleaming, sensitive tone and exemplary diction are ideal: Behold and see is winningly sung. Rutter also has a trump card in his soprano, Joanne Lunn. Her heartfelt simplicity of approach and purity of voice are most affecting, nowhere more so than at I know my redeemer liveth.” International Record Review

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