Is there an "official" edition of Handel's Messiah?

What I wanna do is sing along with the Messiah on CD, in the privacy of my own home. (Look, you have fun your way, I’ll have fun mine…)

So I needed a vocal score. So I looked in my old faithful Dover reprints catalog and sent away for “Handel’s Messiah”. What I got, first, turned out to be an “Abridged” edition (by one Alfred Mann), so there are some chunks missing towards the end, and second, it turned out to be–different. Some of the notes are slightly different than what the choir on the CD is singing. (I don’t mind that it was the full orchestral score, I can read along with the voices. I’d like just a voice/piano score, but full score will do.)

So now I’m looking on, and they’ve got three different versions of “handel messiah score” that I can see.

Something billed as “Messiah in Full score”, with a purple cover, which doesn’t have a name for the edition. It’s $10.50.

Something billed as “Messiah Vocal Score, Novello Edition”. It’s 20 bucks.

And something at least with a name that I recognize, the G. Schirmer’s edition, “Messiah, An Oratorio, Complete Vocal Score”. Okay, but that’s from, like, 1910. Is it obsolete? I don’t wanna buy it if it’s not going to be what the choir is singing on the CD, either. But it’s only $7.50.

So I’m in a quandary. The Novello edition looks like what I want–but not if it’s some newfangled revisionist edition. The Schirmer’s at least has a name I recognize, but it may be out-of-date. And the Purple Book, it’s another full score, but it’s only $10.50, but who knows what it may or may not have edited out?

So, any advice, information, input?

There are likely many, many, many different choral arrangements of the Messiah.

When I was in high school all the Catholic high schools got together for a choir concert. We each did some of our own pieces, and then sang parts of the Messiah together. This turned out to be a little tricky - because each school had its own arrangement.

Most of them shouldn’t differ too much - a few notes here and there. The only way you could be sure it would match perfectly is to find a version of the arrangement that is on your cd.

What part do you sing?

Why don’t you just buy a matched pair? Buy a CD with X’s scoring and buy the book of X’s scoring?

BTW You are way cool for wanting to do this! The Messiah is one of my favourite pieces of music.

No, there’s no such thing as an ‘official’ version.

Words to look out for are ‘critical edition’, which means they’ve gone to the effort of looking at all the relevant historical sources, and working from them. ‘Performing edition’ is another phrase you may come across, which generally means that the historical details and minutae are omitted, prefering to present a clear easy unambiguous reading. However, neither of these phrases will necessarily crop up on vocal scores, but rather on full scores.

The Schirmer edition is likely to be the least historically-accurate, both due to its date and the fact that Schirmer can be particularly shoddy. Nonetheless, it’s quite possible that this will be the closest match to the CD, unless it’s a recent recording. Read through the small-print in the CD booklet, it may tell you what edition was used in the recording. Failing that, if it were me, I’d get the Novello.

Hmm. Okay, thanks for the input. :slight_smile: