Handel: Messiah. Bach: Magnificat.
Sir Adrian Boult; Pierre Colombo
Label
Decca
Catalogue No.
4840411
Barcode
00028948404117
Format
3-CD
About

Sir Adrian Boult’s first Messiah for Decca, newly remastered and coupled with a rare L’Oiseau-Lyre recording of the Bach Magnificat, new to CD.

When this Messiah was released in 1954, critics were quick to recognise it as exemplifying the English oratorio tradition at its finest. Boult used a large chorus – the London Philharmonic Choir, singing with superb discipline and clarity of articulation – but he rejected both the monumental style of performance cultivated by Sir Malcolm Sargent and the anachronistic trappings of Sir Thomas Beecham’s Handel. Boult slimmed down the LPO to chamber-orchestra dimensions, though he did not neglect the oratorio’s moments of grandeur, pathos and splendour. Almost everywhere, the recorded sound belies its age. With mono this vivid and with bass frequencies this powerful, few will pine for stereo. Each orchestral section is sharply delineated: a glint of oboe timbre here, a welcome emphasis on the bottom line’s crunchy bassoon timbre there.

In fact his stereo remake from seven years later (with the London Symphony Orchestra) has a more old-fashioned feel, due at least in part to a more operatically scaled team of soloists. In 1954 Boult’s cast was led by the elegant and imperious soprano of Jennifer Vyvyan. The male soloists, too, found favour with Benjamin Britten when casting his operas; the recording is particularly valuable as a rare example on records of the artistry of the American tenor George Maran: always well-focused, assured from top to bottom of the register.

More British singers on top form may be enjoyed in the coupling, a recording of Bach’s Magnificat made in 1955 for L’Oiseau-Lyre by the London-based Kalmar Chamber Orchestra and St Anthony Singers. The Swiss conductor Pierre Colombo, little known now, presides over a rhythmically vital account, lent a further ‘period’ feel by the stylish contributions of both the countertenor Alfred Deller and the slender, pure-toned soprano member of the Deller Consort, Eileen McLoughlin. This reissue is further enhanced by a new essay by R.J. Stove, contextualising both the works and these marvellous performances.

TRACK LISTING / ARTISTS

GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL (1685–1759)
Messiah, HWV 56*

Jennifer Vyvyan, soprano
Norma Procter, contralto
George Maran, tenor
Owen Brannigan, bass-baritone
London Philharmonic Choir
Frederic Jackson, chorus master
London Philharmonic Orchestra
George Malcolm, harpsichord
Ralph Downes, organ
Eric Bravington, trumpet
Sir Adrian Boult


J.S. BACH (1685–1750)
Magnificat in D major, BWV 243°
Eileen McLoughlin, soprano I
Heather Harper, soprano II
Alfred Deller, countertenor
Wilfred Brown, tenor
Maurice Bevan, bass
St. Anthony Singers
The Kalmar Orchestra
Denis Vaughan, organ
Thornton Lofthouse, harpsichord
Pierre Colombo

 

*FIRST INTERNATIONAL CD RELEASE ON DECCA

°FIRST CD RELEASE ON DECCA

Track previews
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: Symphony
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 38. Why do the Nations
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 29. He was cut off
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 30. But Thou didst not Leave
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 31. Lift up your Heads
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 32. Unto which of the Angels
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 33. Let all the Angels of God
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 34. Thou art gone up on high
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 35. The Lord gave the Word
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 36. How Beautiful are the Feet
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 37. Their Sound is gone out
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 39. Let us Break their Bonds asunder
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 27. Thy Rebuke hath broken His Heart
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 40. He that Dwelleth in Heaven
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 41. Thou shalt Break them
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 42. "Hallelujah"
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 43. I Know that my Redeemer Liveth
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 44. Since by Man came Death
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 45. Behold, I tell you a Mystery
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 46. The Trumpet shall Sound
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 47. Then shall be Brought to Pass
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 48. O Death, where is thy Sting?; 49. But Thanks to God
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 50. If God be for us
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 28. Behold and See
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 26. He trusted in God
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 1. Comfort ye, My People
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 13. Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 2. Ev'ry Valley shall be Exalted
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 3. And the Glory of the Lord
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 4. Thus saith the Lord
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 5. But who may abide the Day of his Coming
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 6. And He shall purify the sons of Levi
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 7. Behold, a Virgin shall Conceive
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 8 & 9. O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 10. For Behold, Darkness shall Cover the Earth
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 11. The People that walked in Darkness
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 12. For unto us a Child is born
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 14. There were Shepherds.And Suddenly there was with the Angel
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 25. All they that see Him
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 15. Glory to God in the Highest
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 16. Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 17. Then shall the Eyes of the Blind
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 18. He shall Feed his Flock
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 1: 19. His Yoke is Easy
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 20. Behold the Lamb of God
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 21. He Was Despised
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 22. Surely He hath borne our Griefs
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 23. And with His Stripes we are Healed
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 2: 24. All we like Sheep have gone astray
Messiah, HWV 56 / Pt. 3: 51. Worthy is the Lamb.Amen
Recording information

Recording Producers: James Walker (Handel); unidentified (Bach)
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (Handel); unidentified (Bach)
Recording Locations: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 4–9 & 11–13 January 1954 (Handel); London, UK, 1955 (Bach)
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
Original LP Releases: Decca LXT 2921-24 (Handel); L’Oiseau-Lyre OL 50101 (Bach)

Reviews

‘Beautifully engineered sound. Balance is exceptional in all directions… [enhancing] the excellent singing of the soloists the really fine choral discipline and the responsiveness of the LPO to a conductor whom they obviously respect.’ High Fidelity, September 1954 (Messiah)

‘This is deservedly a classic among Messiah recordings.’ Gramophone, March 1961 (Messiah)

‘A very strong and very attractive performance… Boult’s reading… is always firmly controlled and finely balanced, with excellent tempos.’ Stereo Review, February 1963 (Messiah)

‘Most enjoyable listening… Deller gives a performance of outstanding distinction… [Colombo’s] direction is lively and sensitive.’ Gramophone, January 1956 (Magnificat)