A brand-new label from one of the world's finest early music ensembles makes an auspicious debut with this stunning new recording of Handel's oratorio Belshazzar. Les Arts Florissants, led by the great William Christie, have launched their new label with the goal of expanding the ensemble's connection to the listening public on a scale far beyond the concert hall. Belshazzar was first performed in 1745, and was frequently revised. Christie has chosen what he considers to be the most successful of the various versions of Belshazzar, resulting in the restoration of the piece in all its splendor. The libretto's subject, which focuses on the decline of a once glorious society and the ephemeral nature of Empire, is especially relevant today. This deluxe set also includes a bonus essay by Jean Echenoz entitled In Babylon, printed separately on special paper and included alongside the regular booklet. This specially commissioned work draws the reader deep into the ancient, majestic city, the seat of power of Belshazzar the King.
Händel Georg Friedrich was a German-English Baroque composer, who became internationally famous for his operas, oratorios, and concerti grossi. Handel was born in 1685, at Halle in Germany, in the same year when Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti were born.
Surprising as it may seem, these very distinguished accounts of the Handel Organ Concertos Op. 4 and Op. 7 are now more than 25 years old–yet they've more than stood the test of time, and indeed are still virtually unrivalled. Herbert Tachezi's performances always are fascinating to hear anew: note for example how he constantly stimulates interest with delightful ornamentation of melody lines, and the way he approaches caesuras in the texts with proper attention paid to their structural and harmonic settings. […] Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Vienna Concentus Musicus plays superbly, with a deftness of touch and technical clarity that perfectly suits the music. (Michael Jameson, classicstoday.com)
Handel's Concerti Grossi opus 6 must surely be ranked as some of the greatest orchestral music ever composed. Probably penned in or around 1739, the pieces were developed to serve as orchestral "interludes" for other operatic or oratorio performances. To listen to them, however, is to tempt us not believe that this could possibly be the case: the Concerti Grossi opus 6 works are without doubt among the pinnacle of Baroque composition. After listening to these, we are left with a distinct sadness that Handel did not turn his attention more to this genre, as his masterful treatment in the opus 6 shows us his true genius.
“[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.
This recording received the 1998 Cannes Classical Music Award for "Best Choral Performance - 19th/20th Centuries"..
Here is a side of Handel unfamiliar even to those knowledgeable about his music. Most of this CD is devoted to miscellaneous songs in English‚ many of them published in his time on song sheets‚ or in journals‚ or given to friends‚ or intended for use in the theatre. They are‚ generally‚ in a more popular vein than his familiar music‚ and often in the style used by such composers as Arne or Boyce‚ or lesser men‚ in their English songs. The best of them‚ to my taste‚ are the theatre songs: ‘I like the amorous youth’ is a specially charming piece‚ and ‘Love’s but the frailty of the mind’‚ a Congreve setting made for the admired actresssinger Kitty Clive‚ is an exquisite and touching little song‚ especially when sung as beautifully as it is here by Emma Kirkby.
Beethoven reputedly wasn't Beecham's favorite composer, but you wouldn't know it from this performance; it's exceedingly well conceived, highly energetic, and has that unique Beecham sparkle to it. The fillers also are delightful. All recorded in Ascona, Switzerland in 1957.