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Friday, June 2, 2017

George Frideric Handel - Messiah (John Butt)


Composer: George Frideric Handel

  • (01-29) Messiah, HWV 56 (Dublin Version, 1742)
  • (01-28) Messiah, HWV 56 (Dublin Version, 1742)

Susan Hamilton, soprano
Annie Gill, contralto / mezzo-soprano
Clare Wilkinson, contralto / mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Mulroy, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass
Dunedin Consort & Players
John Butt, conductor

Date: 2006
Label: Linn Classics




"For an infinitely rewarding fresh look at Handel’s most familiar music, look no further than the Dunedin Consort’s performance of Handel’s first version, premiered at Dublin in 1742. Bizarrely under-represented in concert and on disc, the Dublin score contains some fascinating music that Handel never reused, such as the substantial chorus ‘Break forth into joy’. The exuberant direction by harpsichordist John Butt is meticulously stylish and utterly devoid of crassly pretentious egotism. The playing is unerringly spontaneous and dramatically integrated with singers who illustrate profound appreciation of text. Clare Wilkinson’s ‘He was despised’ is most moving, Susan Hamilton effortlessly skips through a delicious ‘Rejoice greatly’, and bass Matthew Brook sings as if his life depends on it.

Butt bravely resolves to use the same forces Handel had at his disposal in Dublin, which means that the entire oratorio is sung by a dozen singers (with all soloists required to participate in the choruses, as Handel would have expected). Where this approach might risk worthy dull solos churned out by stalwart choir members, the Dunedin Consort’s exemplary singers produce virtuoso choruses that are theatrically charged, splendidly poised and exquisitely blended. Old warhorses ‘For unto us a child is born’ and ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs’ are delightfully inspiring. Butt and the Dunedin Consort marry astute scholarship to sincere artistic expression and the result is comfortably the freshest, most natural, revelatory and transparently joyful Messiah to have appeared for a very long time."

-- David Vickers, Gramophone

More reviews:


George Frideric Handel (23 February 1685 (O.S.) [(N.S.) 5 March] – 14 April 1759) was a German-born, British Baroque composer who spent the bulk of his career in London, becoming well known for his operas, oratorios, anthems, and organ concertos. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, with extremely popular works such as Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks and Messiah. His music was strongly influenced both by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition.


John Butt (born 17 November 1960 in Solihull, England) is an orchestral and choral conductor, organist, harpsichordist and scholar. He studied at the University of Cambridge, where his teachers included Peter Hurford and Gillian Weir. He is the Gardiner Chair of Music at the University of Glasgow (since 2001) and is music director of the Dunedin Consort. Since 2005, Butt has conducted eleven recordings of the Dunedin Consort and Players for the Linn label, many featuring reconstructions of a specific historical performance.


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