HANDEL Messiah


“The players take their namesake ‘Fire’ to heart.”

*Bonus DVD featuring special behind-the-scenes footage in rehearsal, in the studio, in concert, and in conversation with the artists!

SKU: AV2208 (2CDs+DVD) Categories: ,

The Concept

In this striking and unusual approach to Handel’s masterpiece, Jeannette Sorrell and her hand-picked company of artists explore Messiah as the theatrical entertainment the composer intended. Starting from the point that an oratorio is a dramatic work – an opera on a Biblical subject – Sorrell takes Messiah back to its roots as a drama performed by theatrically trained singer-actors for an opera-going public.

Known for their “energy, discipline, style and pizzazz” (BOSTON GLOBE), Jeannette Sorrell and her ensemble have delved into the secrets of Handel’s score for fifteen years. Sorrell said, “I marvel every day at the boldness of the experiment that Handel and his librettist Charles Jennens undertook in 1741. Handel and Jennens courageously proclaimed their new work ‘A Sacred Oratorio’ – in other words, a theatrical entertainment that is also a spiritual journey. That theatrical/spiritual duality caused criticism in Handel’s lifetime. But it is surely the reason why the piece continues to speak to so many people today.”

In the accompanying DVD, Sorrell describes how Handel responded to the challenge of musical storytelling. The DVD includes scenes from rehearsal and performances, interviews with the soloists and musicians, and commentary from Sorrell.

For this recording, Sorrell chose a quartet of vocal artists who share her view of the work as a drama. These “visionary storytellers” (THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER) take on the roles of the joyous angel bringing glad tidings, the anguished narrator of Jesus’ sufferings, the voice crying in the wilderness, and the victorious prophet of Christ’s triumph in the world to come.

The Reviews

“The answer to the prayers of those hoping for freshness, clarity, and no-holds-barred enthusiasm. The playing… suggests an almost improvisatory quality… a sense that both players and singers are coming to the work with a fresh perspective. Apollo’s Singers show both discipline and abandon where required… The playing is lucid, forceful, and supportive, with the overall feel of a group of friends collaborating for enjoyment… Performances of youthful fire and commitment.”

“The players take their namesake ‘Fire’ to heart.”

“First rate… a winning, distinctive new version.”

“Over the years, music director Jeannette Sorrell has rethought and refined her vision of the piece to the point where Handel is both the most subtle and explosive of composers. Sorrell leads the score as if she were sharing artistic secrets or basking in the passionate content that flows from the page. Every phrase is shaped with a keen blend of fidelity and imagination. The Apollo’s Fire musicians… show how intimacy brings the drama into tight, blazing focus…. This is a ‘Messiah’ that tells its story with sometimes fierce power. Yet Sorrell also is a conductor who adores nuance. Choral clarity of this sort is almost unheard of today”

“Wonderfully entertaining. The singers and orchestra sound absolutely delighted to be performing Messiah… Sorrell employs a lovely dancing lilt and draws a variety of colors from the chorus… gleamingly radiant. Excellent soloists… persuasively emotional and highly dramatic. First rate.”

“The U.S.A.’s hottest baroque band.” –CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE (UK)

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