Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa ONZ DBE AC (born 6 March 1944) is a New Zealand/Māori soprano who has had a highly successful international opera career since 1968. Acclaimed as one of the most beloved sopranos in both the United States and Britain she possesses a warm full lyric soprano voice, singing a wide array of works in multiple languages from the 17th to the 20th centuries. She is particularly associated with the works of Mozart, Strauss, Verdi, Handel and Puccini…
This BBC Proms concert, titled A Handel Celebration, commemorates the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death and the 30th anniversary of the founding of The Sixteen, which got its name from the fact that the original chorus had 16 members. The forces used here are a bit larger than those Harry Christophers usually employs. The mixed-voice chorus numbers 30, and the orchestra is listed at 42 members, although it does not appear that they are all onstage at the same time.
The St. John Passion was long regarded as an early work by Handel, written in Hamburg in 1704. It had to be early, as there are few really Handelian fingerprints in the music. In the late 1960s though, musicologists started allocating it to Georg Böhm (1661-1733), a Thuringian-born composer who worked in Hamburg and Luneburg. He is remembered chiefly for his fine organ music and his influence on Bach. But the record booklet makes an interesting case for Handel's authorship, particularly as Handel's friend Mattheson was an advocate of the work.
Let's not waste time: get this for soprano Lucy Crowe's voice, for her performance of "What passion cannot Music raise", for her "The soft complaining flute"–and don't forget the glorious "But oh! What art can teach". Okay–just get this for the magnificent Crowe, whose golden, ringing tone and impeccable, uninhibited technique sets Handel's arias ablaze in vibrant, scintillating glory, relegating any recorded competition to second-class status. (Listen to that long-held, stratospheric note in the final chorus, on the words "The trumpet shall be heard on high"–on high, indeed; it seems like Crowe could have sustained it forever!) To sing Handel requires technical ease and comfort, range and unreserved explicatory ability–and in this, and in her complete habitation of the world of Handelian style Lucy Crowe is unsurpassed.
Using some of the finest early-music soloists of the day, Parrott and his forces give posterity a recording that welds tightly focused emotion to a laudable and uncommon feel for the music. The soloists produce appropriately light but well-focused tone and display an ability to negotiate the intricacies of Handel’s notes evenly and with an exceptional grasp of the phrasing required for successful performance. The choral lines are carefully etched and meticulously balanced, resulting in a superlative overall sound that—in spite of the small choir—is rich and capable of exceeding power when required.
This 55-CD set chronicles the remarkable Archiv label, begun in 1947. Devoted mainly to early and Baroque music, the recordings presented here, in facsimiles of their original sleeves (a nice touch), cover the period from Gregorian chant to Beethoven’s Fifth and Sixth symphonies, played on period instruments. There are stops in between for a great deal of Bach, music of the Gothic era, the French Baroque (Mouret, Delalande, Rameau, etc), Gibbons, Handel (Alcina, La Resurrezione, Messiah, Italian cantatas), Telemann, Zelenka, Gabrieli, Desprez, Haydn, LeJeune, and plenty of the usual, as well as unusual, suspects. There’s also a final CD with selections of new releases (more Handel, Cavalli, Gesualdo, Vivaldi).
Despite the use of period instruments, including some fine blaring natural horns, this couldn't be called a historically informed performance of Handel's Royal Fireworks Music, HWV 351. The work was not composed for a pleasant onboard afternoon musicale like the Water Music, but instead was part of an event that would have been one of the top items on CNN Headline News for 1749: the celebration of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, brokered by King George II.