In memoriam Judith Nelson (1939-2012)

Last week we were deeply saddened to hear of the death of soprano Judith Nelson.

Judith was a longstanding AAM collaborator, and thankfully her singing is immortalised on a range of recordings – including Purcell’s complete Theatre Music as well as oratorios, operas and cantatas by Handel.

Perhaps her most famous appearance was in our 1980 recording of Messiah, in which she sang alongside Emma Kirkby. Here is Judith performing ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’.

“I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though worms destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep.”


  1. The 1980 recording of Messiah has had a lifelong impact on me, and Judith Nelson’s rendition of “Rejoice Greatly” on that recording continues to be my all-time favorite of that aria. She will not be forgotten!

  2. Working at Decca 1974-84, I had many opportunities to attend recording sessions with Judith Nelson and to appreciate her great gifts. The fact that she appeared to deliver the most demanding performances without effort was evidence of her high musical intelligence, intensive preparation as well as her vocal mastery. She sang with infectious joyousness, bringing a real sense of live music-making to what can be the clinical atmosphere of the studio. Judy’s musical partnership with her good friend and colleague Emma Kirkby yielded some of the great treasures among recordings and concert performances of the time. She was an essential part of Decca’s L’Oiseau-Lyre Florilegium label alongside Christopher Hogwood and Anthony Rooley and producer Peter Wadland. It was fun to be in her company, and I’m so sad that she – and those close to her – had to endure her long illness. – John Kehoe

  3. Sad news. For me also, this Messiah recording was a revelation in the 80’s when I discovered early music with the AAM productions, being a flutist student in a French “Conservatoire”. The voice of Judith Nelson (with Emma Kirkby) opened to me wide horizons. Her voice will still accompany me…

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