Music: New Records, Jan. 4, 1960

Handel's Messiah is a little like an intricately carved altarpiece with countless sliding and interchangeable parts. An inveterate improviser, Handel altered the work's solo parts constantly to suit various singers. In addition, the orchestration varied: at times Handel called only for strings, trumpets and drums, but to these he sometimes added oboes, bassoons and horns. After Handel's death (1759), well-wishers by the dozens set to work "modernizing" the Messiah: Mozart added new parts for violins and violas, used wind instruments in parts previously reserved for the organ or harpsichord; English Composer Ebenezer...