In the spring of 1741, Handel apparently considered returning to his German homeland. He remained in London, however, to set 'another scripture collection'. The 'subject is Messiah', explained librettist Charles Jennens. Handel's new work went on to become the best-known of all English oratorios, a staple of British choral and cultural life.
Long before so-called 'period' Messiah performances gained credence, my ears were wedded to the Huddersfield Choral Society's 1946 recording of the work with Malcolm Sargent. This Signum release, recorded in concert last December, marks the 175th anniversary season of the 'Choral'. It also reveals a modern symphonic chorus in good form, well drilled by chorus master Joseph Cullen and thoroughly prepared for the considerable demands of Jane Glover's fleet-footed interpretation. They may not be the youngest group in the land, but their collective experience, wholehearted spirit and total commitment return handsome compensation for occasional rough ensemble edges, especially so in the 'Hallelujah Chorus' and final 'Amen'.
Glover's sense of drama, attention to detail and tempo relationships, and feeling for ritual nourish a persuasive interpretation, one backed by the Northern Sinfonia's stylish playing. Elizabeth Watts and Catherine Wyn-Rogers add deep emotional impact to the performance.