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.
“[These suites] have rarely been recorded or promoted by harpsichordists during the most recent revival of interest in ‘early music.’” I realize that Richard Egarr is entitled to his own opinions—his liner notes on an earlier release, for example, likened the humor in Purcell’s harpsichord music to that of the wonderful old 1950s BBC comedy The Goon Show —but he’s not entitled to his own facts. Christopher Brodersen pointed out in a 2011 review of these works featuring Laurence Cummings ( Fanfare 34:5) that ArkivMusic listed nine complete sets played on the harpsichord, with several others on the piano. I find some of the suites have considerably more recordings than that, in 2014: 26 for the Suite in A Major, 28 for the Suite in D Minor, 25 for the Suite in E Minor, 47 for the Suite in E Major. If such numbers reflect rare recordings, I have to wonder what Egarr would consider a moderate number, let alone a frequent one.
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.