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In one respect, both Handel and Bach have been best known through the history of music for their vocal music. As a result, there are many excellent recordings of their works. Handel’s Messiah has an enormous number of representative examples. I will therefore include my favorite selection, but will also include a number of additional options beneath if I feel like it is necessary.

For example, the modern movement toward playing music with ‘original’ instruments (that is, actual instruments from the period or reproductions) along with using historically informed styles means that the music can sound quite different than playing the same piece with modern instruments and using more traditional styles. I sometimes prefer one over the other, or sometimes I like hearing both.

All to say, Baroque music has representatives in both schools, and I may sometimes give you those options. I’ll try to specify the style if it seems like it would be useful.

Handel’s Vocal Music

There are many collections of Handel’s most famous arias sung by virtuosos. They are a wonderful way to go straight to the best of his work.

Handel Gold – Multiple Artists | 2 CDs Amazon

Handel Arias – Renée Fleming, soprano with Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment | 2 CDs Amazon

Handel Arias – Bryn Terfel, Bass-Baritone | Amazon

There are abundant riches when it comes to Messiah. It is the most famous vocal work in the English language, and has been for over three hundred years. I will provide here my favorite versions to listen to, but there are many more for you to explore.

Messiah – John Eliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir | CD Amazon | CD & LP Discogs | This is an original instrument version that is nearly perfect in every way.

Other Recordings

All of this recordings are available for purchase on Amazon or Discogs.

Messiah – Sir Thomas Beecham & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra | The traditional, large chorus British version – one of the most famous recordings of Messiah

Messiah – Christopher Hogwood & The Academy of Ancient Music | My second favorite version, although also on original instruments in an ‘historically informed performance’.

Messiah – Eugene Ormandy & Mormon Tabernacle Choir | The traditional, large chorus American version, with slower tempos.

I have included a few of Handel’s full oratorios as well as some of his wonderful music for church services.

Saul – Paul McKreesh & Gabrielli Consort & Players | Amazon

Israel in Egypt – John Eliot Gardiner & the Monteverdi Choir | Amazon

Utrecht ‘Te Deum & Jubilate’ & Zadok the Priest – Geraint Jones | Some of Handel’s most popular church music.

Handel’s Instrumental Music

Harpsichord Suites – Colin Tilnay, harpsichord | Amazon

Handel and Scarlatti – Murray Perahia, piano | Amazon | A wonderful recording pairing both two of Handel’s suites and a handful of Scarlatti’s sonatas.

Keyboard Suites 1-8 & 9-12 – Sviatoslav Richter & Andrei Gavrilov, piano | Amazon | This is one of my favorite recordings of these works. Richter and Gavrilov each take different suites and both do an excellent job. The piano brings out much of the singing nature of these works.

Handel wrote a variety of sonatas featuring various instruments accompanied by a harpsichord. They are wonderful pieces.

Complete Violin Sonatas – Andrew Manze, violin | Amazon

Flute Sonatas – Hans-Martin Linde, flute; Karl Richter, harpsichord

Trio Sonatas – Trevor Pinnock and others | Amazon

Conceri Grossi Op. 6, No. 1-12 & Op. 3, No. 1-12 – Sir Neville Marriner & Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields

Organ Music Op. 4 & Op. 7 – Karl Richter and Münchener Bach-Orchester

Oboe Concertos No. 1-3 – Raymond Leppard & English Chamber Orchestra