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Karl Richter and John Alldis are my 2 favorites. I only listened to it once so far, but I was underwhelmed by Klemperer's version. I usually regard Otto's sacred works in the top echelon. Perhaps a few more listens will yield more.

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In 'chronological' order... I love them all.

Colin Davis's 1st Philips recording (1966)

Christopher Hogwood (1980)

Ton Koopman (1983, live)

Trevor Pinnock (1988)

William Christie (1994)

Frieder Bernius (2009)
 

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I only listened to it once so far, but I was underwhelmed by Klemperer's version. I usually regard Otto's sacred works in the top echelon. Perhaps a few more listens will yield more.
Maybe not. Here's what I wrote about it a few years ago on an Amazon review:

"This is a very dark and serious recording of this work. The tempi are a little slower than I'd like, but are not really excessive. The chorus is fine, but the soloists are a pretty unimpressive lot, despite the names. I like Grace Hoffman best of the four - the voice is a bit over-vibrant for this music, but at least her English is idiomatic. So is Jerome Hines', but his delivery is stiff and metronomic. Gedda is simply out of his element here - the voice is nasal in quality and his English sounds phonetic. Schwarzkopf's a little better in that respect, but I simply can't stand the sound of her voice."
 

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Maybe not. Here's what I wrote about it a few years ago on an Amazon review:

"This is a very dark and serious recording of this work. The tempi are a little slower than I'd like, but are not really excessive. The chorus is fine, but the soloists are a pretty unimpressive lot, despite the names. I like Grace Hoffman best of the four - the voice is a bit over-vibrant for this music, but at least her English is idiomatic. So is Jerome Hines', but his delivery is stiff and metronomic. Gedda is simply out of his element here - the voice is nasal in quality and his English sounds phonetic. Schwarzkopf's a little better in that respect, but I simply can't stand the sound of her voice."
Weighted down with Klemperer's leaden tempi, the whole thing sounds a museum piece. Best it stays there is a relic of a bygone age. If you want an all bells and whistles approach go to Beecham - at least that is fun!
 

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My first choice is the Stephen Cleobury 1994 recording with the Choir of King’s College Cambridge, though I can also appreciate the monumental Beecham, full of excesses. The Pinnock is another favorite for Arleen Auger’s superb assumption and all-around excellence, and the Andrew Davis for Kathleen Battle’s angelic sounds.

 

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I listened to Karl Richter's 1972 recording with the London Philharmonic (in English) this afternoon. The 1964 recording with Richter's own Münchener Bach-Orchester und Chor is sung in German, as others have noted here. It's a monumental-sounding recording; I'm not a huge Messiah fan but I imagine that this is a different direction than a historically-informed interpretation would choose to pursue. The 1964 recording looks better on paper but I haven't heard it; the fact that it is performed in translation might ruffle some feathers, too.
 

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Just listened to this one today, like it a lot. The operatic voices are wonderful.
 

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I listened to Karl Richter's 1972 recording with the London Philharmonic (in English) this afternoon. The 1964 recording with Richter's own Münchener Bach-Orchester und Chor is sung in German, as others have noted here. It's a monumental-sounding recording; I'm not a huge Messiah fan but I imagine that this is a different direction than a historically-informed interpretation would choose to pursue. The 1964 recording looks better on paper but I haven't heard it; the fact that it is performed in translation might ruffle some feathers, too.
Crass is fabulous on the German Richter recording. The language doesn't bother me; one of my favorites is this one, currently selling for virtually nothing on US Amazon:

Font Publication Electric blue Brand Rectangle
 

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The language might be more bothersome when one is German. ;) There are several translations but the ones I heard are usually slightly confusing to me because of translation and singability they are different from the "standard" (i.e. usually Luther-based) bible verses. I also got to know the piece in English, so it just feels odd to me in German.
Crass and Janowitz are good, I was not so impressed with the other soloists in the German language Richter and I found the whole thing rather four square and often boringly conducted. It's also slightly abridged (some lesser known arias in part 2 and 3 are cut, I believe, probably to get the whole comfortably onto 3 LPs) but still spread over 3 CDs in the recording I had.
 

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There are a few Messiahs that I like a lot, most of them HIP (I am generally OK with some non-HIP Baroque but not really in the Messiah). I'll choose Harnoncourt's second recording with Christine Schafer, Anna Larsson, Michael Schade and Gerald Finley. I don't know why but I haven't heard his first recording. McCreesh is also a good one.
 

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McCreesh is a very good and fairly "safe" choice of still "up to date" (late 1990s) HIP with excellent soloists. The first Harnoncourt (1980s with the Ericson choir) is interesting but not a safe choice at all ;) There are Harnoncourtisms all over the place, at least two of the soloists are not idiomatically pronouncing English (but Lipovsek is quite impressive nevertheless). I'd recommend this one maybe as a third or fourth choice for listeners who want something different.
 

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  • Release Date: 28th Oct 2016
  • Catalogue No: CHSA5176
  • Label: Chandos
  • Length: 1 hour 54 minutes
 
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