I did a SDMB search, and this question was asked in 2007. Maybe there are some more recent recordings.
In a previous life, I lived in Utah. Every year they would have a Messiah sing in. The symphony hall where it was preformed held thousands. Everyone brought their sheet music. It was 360 degree stereo. Very beautiful with all the parts dancing all around your ears.
I like this recording.
It features the soprano Kiri te Kanawa.
What is your favorite?
Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chamber Chorus, with Kaaren Erickson. Sylvia McNair, Alfredo Hodgson, Jon Humphrey and Richard Stilwell.
Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with Eileen Farrell, Martha Lipton, Davis Cunningham and William Warfield. It’s remastered.
These are two very different recordings, and I enjoy them both. The Shaw recording has better sound, being a digital recording. It’s also more intimate than the Ormandy, which has the MTC, Eileen Farrell and William Warfield.
There’s a more recent recording with Sir David Willcocks conducting the MTC, but it’s gotten not very good reviews.
I love the 1976 recording by the Academy & Chorus of St Martin In The Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Not as lush & ponderous as the Messiahs I remember from my youth; more stringently “period” versions may have been recorded since this one. It works for me…
One problem is that there are plenty of recordings of the great, well-known choruses, but few of the entire Messiah. For my own listening, I’ve gone through the two recordings and compared each track, compiling a hybrid of the better of the two.
My favorite Messiah recording is this very large scale performance.
It is a recreation of one of the massive performances of Messiah, original instruments but with a huge choir. I’ve had this CD since college and have listened to it every year during Advent and Easter.
My favorite is the one I’ve been listening to for over 50 years: the Scherchen mono performance of 1953. Reduced orchestra and chorus. No double-dotted notes. Follows the Schirmer edition almost exactly. The slow tempi are SLOW. The tenor and soprano soloists are a bit atypical, perhaps.
My turntable gave up the ghost, so I hadn’t heard it for a number of years until someone posted FLAC files of the 1990s CD reissue on Usenet. I see now that it was also reissued on CD in 2004. That’s no longer available, but iTunes has it. And I’m absolutely sure it’s the same version, because in a preview of one track, I can hear the original print-through at one point!
And, of course, someone has posted the whole thing on YouTube.
The library has the Marriner and the Pinnock, and I suppose I should check them out some time.