Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For Christmas Eve, savor the true miracle: "For unto us a child is born"


"For unto us a child is born" ends Part I of Handel's Messiah.

by Ken

People keep telling me I shouldn't worry so much about the quality of the performances I put up here, but I know that this anemic, pipsqueaky rendering doesn't capture much of the sense of wonder, triumph, and miraculous excitement that Handel captured in the announcement: "For unto us a child is born." Really, Handel gives us the feeling that that is the miracle: that a child is born (and a son given). Even when this particular child's future responsibilities are set out ("Wonderful counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father), note how Handel italicizes the additional role: "the Prince of Peace."

Still, it's better than the other performances I found online before I gave up searching, having discovered how much worse I could do -- namely, the most recent recording by Sir Colin Davis, in the LSO Live series, which reduces the piece to limp, soggy time-beating, creating no movement at all until it gets loud, and then it merely gets loud. It's the kind of performance that leads people to think, as I confess I once did, that it's just tendentious, churchy folderol.

(Really shocking, considering that some 40 years ago the younger Colin Davis made one of the most enduring, vital recordings of Messiah, also with the LSO. It's been reissued as an inexpensive Philips "twofer" set, which I can still recommend highly as a basic Messiah recording. Davis even did a pretty decent remake for Philips in Munich. Now this.)

Well, at least this clip allows you to follow along with the words and music. Merry Christmas and season's greetings to all.



Labels: , ,


At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Siun said...

Happy Christmas Ken!

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

Unto you, Ken, a Christmas greeting is given. :) Agreed on Davis: I have a tape somewhere of a live BSO Dvorak 7th from the 70's he conducted that is absolutely hair-raising. Live, he sometimes catches fire, but in a studio, I usually find him a competent timekeeper. But then, I really love conductors like Munch, Beecham, Barbirolli: people who could and would raise hell with the music. I've been told it's inappropriate and "inauthentic," but I don't really give a damn. They knew how to turn music into life.

At 10:49 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks, Bil, and to you!

As for Sir Colin, he's one of my greatest enigmas, and every time I think I've got him figured out, he confounds me -- sometimes for worse, but also sometimes for better. I think the problem is that he himself has no idea where his real performances come from, and so has no idea how to make them happen.

And unfortunately he's been TOLD he's great at things he has, apparently, no particular insight into, like Berlioz and Mozart, so he THINKS he must have some insight into them. When he "just did" his Berlioz, for example, it was OK -- then he started "conceiving" it, and it turned to muck.

But you never know with him. Every now and then, in the most unexpected repertory, he'll do something wonderful.

Season's cheers to all --

At 8:11 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Oops, sorry, Balakirev, I seem to be seeing Bil everywhere. Thanks for your comment. Those are all names after my own heart!

And happy Christmas to you too, Siun! Thanks for stopping by!



Post a Comment

<< Home