Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button
Written in just 24 days and borne out of financial necessity after his operatic stagings began to lose money in England during the 1730s, the oratorio Messiah remains perhaps Handel’s most celebrated work. A German composer who found favour with successive English monarchs Anne I and King George I, Handel may not be the biggest name in classical music to the casual observer but there’s no denying that his influence can still be felt in the British classical establishment even today.

Relating the coming of Jesus and the son of God’s subsequent crucifiction by his own people, Messiah, in unexpurgated form, clocks in at around 3 hours. This Silverline DVD-A, for reasons that are not stated on the disc, presents a 48 minute version which nevertheless takes the key melodical motif from each part to essay the time honoured tale.

Incorporating the 13 various tracks mixed together with some skill, this presentation of Messiah foregoes some of the angst-ridden choruses of the third act (although the seminal '‘All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray' is retained) for a simple and accessible approach to the story.

A couple of key tracks will be well known by just about anyone, if not by name, as they have entered popular culture. ‘Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)’ has cropped up in the background on many a TV advert while ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ has unfortunately become a byword for the comic epiphany which makes it a little difficult to take it seriously here.

That said, there is plenty to enjoy on this disc with the London Symphony Orchestra afforded the chance to show why they’re the best in the business and some outstanding vocal deliveries from the assorted tenor and soprano soloists in amongst the belting sections such as ‘Behold The Lamb Of God’ where the chorus really cuts loose. Closer to traditional opera than the layman’s initial impression of what classical music would usually be, Messiah should nevertheless find a good home on the shelf of any self-respecting fan of Handel’s oeuvre.

Silverline have offered two surround tracks on the disc. Taking the full bitrate DTS example first, it’s a thoroughly decent affair. Fidelity in the chorus sections is outstanding while the soloists are crystal clear from the centre speaker. As an oratorio there’s precious little bass to tax the subwoofer but the few sections that call for its use do so effectively. However, while the DTS is good, for a purely musical presentation it still lags some way behind the Advanced Resolution format offered on many DVD-A discs.

The alternative track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and lacks much of the sharpness of its esteemed cousin. The chorus sections are interpreted in a much more brassy fashion; yet what the track lacks in vocal fidelity it definitely makes up for in drive and bass with the male tenors much more pronounced.

To accompany the sonic delivery is a choice of 5 Visual Themes (involving various architectural, artistic and natural themes), including a particularly insightful selection entitled ‘Program Notes’ which offers a running text commentary on the playing track. There’s a mine of useful information here that will enhance an understanding, if not enjoyment if you aren’t classically inclined, of the music and the motivation behind it.

A short text based DVD Music featurette is next, making plain the advantages of DVD Audio over the precedent CD format.

A Speaker Setup utility is present to assist in attuning your home cinema setup to the exacting aural demands of the music.

Also provided is a Silverline DVD-A Catalogue in which all the various releases from the company are listed, each with a short promotional blurb.

Finally there’s a Credits option which, if selected, will bring up a list of those responsible audio engineers behind the scenes.
If you happen not to be a fan of classical music, then there’s little in the disc that may be of sufficient weight to change your mind. For anyone who appreciates the fine works of such orchestral pieces the choice of surround mixes from Silverline is welcome although without Advanced Resolution capability and in such a shortened form, even those may think twice before upgrading from their current CD set.