Handel’s Messiah (DVD-Audio)
Music: A MLP 5.1: B DTS 5.1: B+ Dolby
Digital Stereo: B-
In 1737 George Frideric
Handel was diagnosed with acute muscular rheumatism, which caused him to spend
excess amount of time in steam baths.
He would sit in them for much longer than the suggested time, but this
caused a ‘healing’, which friends (religious friends especially) considered a
miracle. This would allow him to return
to work, where he would pump out some of his most well received works such as Xerxes,
and especially his masterpiece, the Oratorio Messiah. The basis for Messiah comes from the
writings of Charles Jennens from the Gospal in Leicestershire. (Note: the spelling of Gospal is correct in
has been interpreted and performed in many versions, with various
instrumentations ranging from a choir of 2,000 individuals to a 400-piece
orchestra. It is hard to imagine what
Handel’s original design was for this work, and especially hard to think about
what classical composers such as this would be capable of in today’s world of
recording. Not only recording, but the
art of transforming those recordings into multi-channel playback, such as the
case with this DVD-Audio from DTS Entertainment.
This particular recording was
done in 1995 with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is comprised of 325
individuals. They are accompanied by a
90-member orchestra known as the NightPro Symphony Orchestra, which in this
case includes harpsichordist Igor Kipnis, organist John Longhurst, and four of
the leading oratorio soloists.
Conducting the orchestra is Sir David Willcocks, who has been involved
in Handel’s Messiah either by singing in, playing in, or conducting for 70
years. The chief recording engineer was John Mosely, who died shortly after in
a tragic plane crash, but was able to complete this amazing recording utilizing
state-of-the-art recording and digital devices to capture the authentic
recreation of Handel’s work.
Most people have never
actually heard this entire piece, but are subject to snippets such as the
overly used “Hallelujah” from the Part II.
When you actually do get to experience this entire body of work, the
result can be intoxicating as it engulfs you starting out relatively mild and
slow, but quickly gains pace along the way and swells. The listener cannot help but feel the
Heavenly-like rejoicing of angels and the strong brass bantering out powerful
choruses to further emphasize the power of Handel’s vision. The entire Messiah is compiled of 45
parts, which are all individually tracked on this DVD-Audio by their
Parts. It would be impossible to list
them all here, but the entire run-time is approximately 2 ½ hours.
The setup is quite basic
as the multi-channel mixes demonstrate a full-range of sound coming from all
speakers. The soloists are featured in
the front three speakers, while the choir is pushed into the surrounds. The organ typically comes from all about
creating a steady amount of sound, so that the mix never feels empty. There is very little ‘toying’ done with the
instrumentation, but rather just delivers uncompromising solid sound. For this type of music this is certainly the
best approach and the focus was on delivering clear and clean sound that would
bring further life into Handel’s opus.
There are three playback
modes for this DVD-Audio, those being MLP 5.1, DTS 5.1, and a Dolby Digital
Stereo option. All three are good in
their own right, but the most natural sounding out of the three is the DTS 5.1
mix. The MLP lossless does provide a
nice alternative, but what is missing here is some of the fullness that occurs
within the DTS mix. Check out the
review for Queen’s DVD-Audio of The Game for a better understanding of
the MLP process. Although the stereo
mix works fine, there is no comparison as the choir is reduced to solely being
in the front two speakers, which does not give the authentic feel of being
surrounding by the angelic sound. The
MLP 5.1 and the DTS 5.1 present a very comfortable mix allowing the viewer to
feel the presence of the music from all sides.
If one were seeing this performed live within a church with acoustics,
the sound would resonate from all corners and circle in on the listener. This is precisely the intent of this
DVD-Audio taking full advantage of the five speakers.
Although there are no
supplements on the disc itself there is an insert, which is very informative
providing credit information for all those involved. Background on The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, information on the soloist,
technical information about the recording, and of course information of Handel
himself is all included. This is one of
the best booklets in terms of aiding with the experience by giving the consumer
some further information to engulf. DTS
Entertainment has been on the verge of some really great discoveries since
their involvement with DVD-Audio’s and are constantly delivering superior
versions of lost material, unique material, popular material, and just gems
that need discovered in multi-channel.
Thanks to them that we are able to get a better understanding for the
way in which classical pieces ought to be heard, which can only further our
appreciation for a lost culture in music.
- Nate Goss