Since its first performance in Dublin on 13 April 1742, Handel's 'Messiah' has remained one of the absolute icons of Western music, having already achieved great popularity during the composer's own lifetime. Handel revised it several times, adapting it to take best advantage of changing circumstances, such as a new cast of singers. The decades after his death in 1759 saw 'Messiah' achieving real cult status. During the remainder of the eighteenth century and particularly during the nineteenth, large-scale performances were the order of the day, preferably featuring hundreds of performers at a time. It was only deep into the twentieth century that such pioneers as Harnoncourt and Brüggen attempted to remove the 'thick layers of dust and varnish' that it had accumulated on it, and to restore performances of the work to historically justified proportions. It is this path that the London Academy of Ancient Music and its conductor, Richard Egarr, have opted to tread. They present a 'Messiah' of human dimensions, a work about the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ, themes that inspired Handel to give the best of himself.