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Cantatas (sacred) - Released February 1, 2003 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released January 1, 1997 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Opera - Released March 1, 2011 | CapriccioNR

Booklet Distinctions Révérence de l'Avant-Scène Opéra
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Classical - Released March 9, 2015 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Recordings like Christopher Hogwood's Messiah are perfect vehicles for the debate of the authentic instrument movement in music. Especially here, since a work as well known to a wide general audience as the Messiah (the recordings of which number in the thousands) will get a number of varied reactions depending upon the performance. Hogwood, although known to many as a "father" (of sorts) to the authentic movement in music, was actually the keyboardist in Neville Marriner's Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields before leaving to form his own Academy of Ancient Music. He has done extensive scholarly research into the performance traditions of Baroque music, much of which has permanently altered many long-standing attitudes and traditions in music performance. The question remains, though: does all of this research and application contribute to a finished product that is communicative to an audience? It seems likely, if based only on the impressive cast. Augmenting the Academy's forces are tenor Paul Elliott, contralto Carolyn Watkinson, and sopranos Judy Nelson and Emma Kirkby. The Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford, is equally impressive. For this recording, as is indicated in his extensive and thorough liner notes, Hogwood utilizes the 1754 Foundling Hospital version. Although it may be a surprising change for some listeners accustomed to the more "standard" versions, the re-creation of this performance is important in a number of ways, historically and artistically. But from the opening bars of the overture, the atmosphere feels rushed. Harmonies are not given enough space or time to be heard and to blossom, and the atmosphere feels thin, grainy, cold, and dry. This seems hardly conducive to the rapture, passion, and magnificence depicted in Handel's score. Everything seems too perfect and too pure, too lifeless and too little energy. An additional annoyance is that the balance of the harpsichord seems far above the orchestra, in some cases (the "Glory of the Lord," for instance) even covering the singers when they dip into the lower registers. These complaints are now almost cliché for those who consistently complain of Hogwood's performance style; for better or worse this recording could serve well as evidence. Looking past these issues, however, one can find a number of beautiful moments throughout. It is precisely due to his approach with this music that Hogwood is able to draw some extraordinary changes of color when and where he wants to. For example, the first bars of "and He Shall Purify" are breathtaking; the organ is significantly exposed here for the first time and finally he releases the music in a way that seems to let it unravel. The vocal solos are good throughout, and Kirkby's performance is notable for its suppleness and grace. Keep in mind that this is a re-creative performance, designed to emulate the conditions of the performance at the Foundling Hospital. Unfortunately, in this case it also means that while the sound quality is certainly good, even though the playing and singing are exceptional, the performance itself may not draw you in. Years after its first release, this recording still leaves one cold, and if you desire a warm, emotional, and intimate performance you may do well to look elsewhere. For those who prefer something more austere, though, look no further. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 1989 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released September 1, 2005 | ATMA Classique

This quiet, circumspect, yet oddly moving recording of Alessandro Scarlatti's Stabat Mater is as far as can be imagined from the intense fireworks of another contemporary recording of the work, that led by conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini on the Naïve label. Soprano Emma Kirkby, countertenor Daniel Taylor, and the Montreal-based Theatre of Early Music (a period-instrument group founded by Taylor) tread catlike through the work, which was written some years before Pergolesi's more famous Stabat Mater setting but was commissioned by the same Italian religious order. The Scarlatti work, more than Pergolesi's, is full of quasi-operatic devices -- pregnant pauses, dissonant "sighs," and, in the final "Amen," some heady vocal acrobatics. In this performance everything is kept to a very quiet level, which may seem inappropriate to Scarlatti's basically theatrical language. Kirkby and Taylor are highly sensitive interpreters, however, and they work together (in the work's four luscious duets) and separately to bring out dissonances and unusual phrase shapes that get lost in a bigger interpretation. Kirkby does not have the absolute clarity of voice that she once did, but she has not lost any of her ability to bring quiet tension to a melodic line. This chamber-sized Scarlatti Stabat Mater might have worked very well in a pairing with the more intimate Pergolesi work, but instead we get the Concerto XXI for flute, strings, and continuo, a little-known work. The intentions of the album are nowhere more clearly revealed than in the decision to replace the transverse flute with Francis Colpron's recorder -- usually it's done the other way around, but the quiet, conversational tone of the recorder and its ability to slide around the center of a consonance as needed fit what this ensemble is trying to do. One might wish for a new recording of the Stabat Mater by Cecilia Bartoli, a Scarlatti interpreter who can combine detail and athleticism, but for now this very expressive performance is worth checking out. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 1998 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1998 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1987 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 1999 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released February 1, 2006 | BIS

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Classical - Released March 25, 2016 | Erato - Warner Classics

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Classical - Released January 1, 1993 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released June 1, 2008 | BIS

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Cantatas (secular) - Released August 2, 2011 | BIS

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Classical - Released January 7, 1991 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released August 31, 2001 | BIS

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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released February 1, 2009 | BIS

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Classical - Released January 1, 1984 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Decca Music Group Ltd.