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Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel have made a considerable reputation for themselves in the 30 years since their founding. This splendid recording of Messiah celebrates their achievements in noble style. Niquet opts for the Foundling Hospital version Handel made in 1754, as did Christopher Hogwood in his celebrated recording over 35 years ago. Light-footed tempi and beautifully sprung rhythms are a given at this level of music-making; all five soloists are excellent, with stylish ornamentation, and the choral singing is often breathtaking in the clarity of its virtuosity. But what definitely sets this recording apart from what is surely an overcrowded market is Niquet’s dramatic flair, an approach that drives the piece along as if it were an opera (and stagings of Messiah are becoming more frequent). To take but one brief example, for the Pastoral Symphony Niquet’s quick tempo ditches the solemn splendour of the angelic host in favour of something that sounds more like the rustic folk music of the shepherds. The whole is immensely satisfying and enjoyable, and offers a refreshing take on the most popular oratorio in the repertoire.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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