This series of eleven church anthems is a sterling example of doing more with less. Though their format is multiple movements for soloists and chorus and inviting of grand treatment, Handel had available only a couple of oboes and a small string band and choir (with no violas or altos for nos. 1-6). Yet each one of these anthems is a gem. Handel's music captures well the changing moods of the Psalm texts–from somber penitence to serene bliss to infectious joy to the raging of storms and seas. Though Bowman's arias lie uncomfortably low for him, he and George do fine work; Lynne Dawson, Patrizia Kwella, and Ian Partridge are delightful. Harry Christophers leads his choir and orchestra in subtly inflected and beautifully paced performances.
Handel’s opera Serse is characterised by its ironic libretto, humorous situations, and high number of short arias.
The main character is the unpredictably obsessive and volatile King Xerxes, a historical character who ruled the Achemenid Empire from 486 BC to 465 BC. The plot concerning the rivalry between Xerxes and his brother, Arsamene, for Romilda, however, is entirely fictional, as is the King’s betrayal of his fiancé, Amastre.
Handel’s beautiful, intimate settings of liturgical texts written for the First Duke of Chandos are among his less well-known choral works—and are proved by this second volume from Trinity also to be among his loveliest. They are a perfect example of the composer’s English style heard in Acis & Galatea and oratorios such as Judas Maccabaeus.
Solo recitals of arias from Handel operas and oratorios are common, so it's a pleasure to hear an album devoted to his duets, particularly when they're performed as well as they are here by soprano Rosemary Joshua and mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly. Both have had diverse careers, but are known especially for their Baroque roles. Their voices are especially well-matched in weight, and their blend is beautifully warm, but they are each distinctive enough that they retain a strong vocal identity even when singing in close harmony.
Review by Stephen Eddins
The late seventeenth century was a period of great change in English music. This was a time when the influences of Italian music were ever-increasing, brought to England by Italian composers such as Draghi, Haym, and Matteis, and by their German contemporaries Pepusch and Handel. In this new release we explore how the English composers Purcell, Weldon, and Croft responded to Italian music and incorporated the style into their own works. The piece by Purcell, Tell me, some pitying angel (or ‘The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation’), written in the style of an Italian cantata, perfectly illustrates his mastery of the Italian style.
This recording of Alceste is performed by the Early Opera Company and Christian Curnyn, whose other Handel recordings for Chandos have all received glowing accolades: Semele, for instance, was an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and one of the Records of 2007 in The Sunday Times. The recording of Flavio was nominated for a Gramophone Award in 2011, in the Baroque Vocal category.
Flavio was one of the operas Handel wrote for the Royal Academy of Music’s company at the King’s Theatre on the Haymarket. It has a character all of its own, very different from that of “Giulio Cesare” which followed it in 1724. Although the plot similarly concerns power and sex, these subjects are treated in a wholly different manner. Some commentators have seen it as almost a comedy. Certainly there are moments that might bring a smile to the face of the audience. These include two successive revenge arias for outraged fathers at the start of the second Act. Also one of the main plot devices relates to who is to have the difficult job of Governor of Britain. There is little else that might be seen as comic to anyone other than many modern opera producers…John Sheppard