It is amazing how many of the world's top singers (of the MET variety)
credit their familiarity with Messiah to the old ca. 1958 recording by the
Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. There was the
ill-begotten David Willcocks version in between, but the time is certainly right
for a modern and definitive recording of Messiah with Wilberg's scholarship
and tonal accuracy brought to bear on the matter. If the chorus on "He is
Risen" (not Hallelujah but Worthy is the Lamb/Amen) is any indication, this
Messiah will have a new and distinctive sound. Bro. Wilberg believes he can
direct a "large choir" version while preserving modern Baroque
scholarship. It is a bold and courageous idea, but I, for one, am excited to
hear what he and the choir have to say. The MTC is at the top of its game.
It's never worked so hard nor sung so well as it does today. Kudos to all
concerned and particularly to the always-self-effacing Mack Wilberg.
A serious flaw in this article is that Handel's wealthy iron master friend
Charles Jennens was not credited as compiler of the Bible texts and libretto in
Messiah that inspired Handel to compose Messiah. Two years ago at Handel House
in London, special recognition was given Charles Jennens for his contribution.
Jennens was a theologian, minister, poet, and editor and publisher of
Shakespeare compositions, which evoked the jealous ire of those who saw
themselves as Shakespeare authorities. They vowed to discredit Jennens into
invisibility and succeeded. Jennens was hostile to the German King George,
wanting a Brit to be King, which put him at odds with the German royals and
their British supporters. Jennens is not mentioned in the major Messiah texts
by publishers, only one of which mentions Jennens in an introductory footnote in
the smalls of fonts. To the credit of the Mormon Tabernacle voice Lloyd Newell:
last Sunday his commentary on Handel and Messiah did credit Charles Jennens.
Excellent scholarship, Lloyd! Not to mention Charles Jennens selection of the
Messiah text would be like not mentioning the lyrics of Eliza R. Snow for the
Latter-day Saint Church hymn "Oh, My Father."
I jumped at the chance to get tickets to this, we can't wait until tomorrow
night for our performance!