Sunday, December 13, 2009

Messiah in German

It almost works better than the English. Handel was never a masterful English speaker, as anybody who ever looks at the text of Messiah for more than two seconds can tell you. But like most Germans of his era, he was probably taught to memorize whole passages of the Gutenberg Bible from birth. We tend to think of Handel as the most international composer (until Stravinsky): German-reared, Italian-trained, career made by the English and beloved by the French. But a passage makes us realize just how close to the soundworld of all those German contemporaries he truly was. Not just Bach, but Telemann, Pachabel and Kuhnau too. And it's all conducted by Karl Richter in that hilarious yet strangely spellbinding fashion of his which turned Bach cantatas into something that sounds like a Bruckner Mass....To think that once upon a time this guy was thought of as the world's greatest interpreter of Baroque music. It kind of boggles the mind.

(This is the way Bach used to be done.)

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