Handel: Messiah [2005] [2004]

Handel: Messiah [DVD] [2005] [2004]

Release Date: December 6, 2004
Studio: Arthaus Musik
Directors: Helmut Rost
Runtime: 150 minutes

The most popular and well-loved of all Handel's great oratorios, The Messiah here receives warm if not exactly passionate treatment under the direction of Stephen Cleobury. This is a period-instrument performance featuring Roy Goodman and his Brandenburg Consort, although not one that aims at any inflexible authenticism. The four soloists are all of the first rank, as are, of course, the choristers of King's College, Cambridge. So, musically the concert's credentials are impeccable. The setting is the Pieterskerk, Leiden, which at least boasts a sympathetic acoustic even though its visual beauties are hidden in candlelit gloom. It must have been a charming evening for the audience, but the film version doesn't really have anything more to offer the home viewer than a few close-ups of the soloists and the occasional cutaway shot of an appropriate painting. Hence, this disc will be of interest if you want to see musicians giving a delightful performance instead of just listening to them; but it's no substitute for a good audio recording.

On the DVD: This is a non-anamorphic widescreen picture, not the 4:3 ratio claimed on the back cover. The sound is only PCM stereo, there are no extra features, and the disc only has the most basic of menus. Chapter access is restricted to just three points. If you wish to select a specific aria or chorus you have to refer to the inside of the booklet and work out which track you need to jump to. And would it be asking too much for the libretto, either on screen or in the booklet? Overall, a very disappointing DVD presentation of an otherwise enjoyable concert performance. --Mark Walker