This is the sixth set in this comprehensive and excellent Handel edition from Warner. This volume deals with an important oratorio in the shape of "Saul" as well as the "Utrecht Te Deum" and the famous "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" and "Alexander's Feast", another splendid cantata. The recordings date from the early 1970's to 1990 and come from the prolific Teldec stable under the indefatigable Nikolaus Harnoncourt who conducts in his exemplary no nonsense fashion. "Saul' is a fine interpretation although I still feel that John Eliot Gardiner comes to the core of the work better. "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day' is also given a pomp and circumstance treatment whilst the Utrecht Te Deum is winningly done. The team of soloists is also very good and the recordings are fine and well balanced in proper Teldec tradition. There are also some rarities thrown in for good measure such as the excerpts from "Giulio Cesare" and the ubiquitous cantata, "Apollo e Dafne", both which receive splendidly invigorating performances. Full texts and translations of the works are available online and the booklet is well presented with some interesting photographs. Those who are new to Handel could do far worse than collect this exemplary edition.(Gerald Fenech)
Nikolaus Harnoncourt has received numerous international awards for his work: Nikolaus Harnoncourt is an honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and the Konzerthausgesellschaft in Vienna (since 1992), he holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh and the Mozarteum music college in Salzburg, and is an honorary member of the Graz and Vienna colleges of music. He was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2002 and the Stockholm Polar Prize, and in 2005 he was honoured with the Kyoto Prize, the world's most important independent cultural award bestowed on outstanding international personalities from the arts and sciences. There are nearly 500 recordings in Nikolaus Harnoncourt's discography, which have been awarded all the major international Classical prizes, including a Grammy in 2002 for his recording of the St Matthew Passion
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.
According to Christopher Hogwood, in his marvelous biography of Handel, "In the winter of that year , Handel received what was for him an unusual commission. Although closely associated with the London theatre, he wrote very little incidental music for plays. A request from John Rich to provide airs and dances for Smollett's 'Alceste' was undertaken, according to Hawkins, in repayment of a debt to Rich."
With so many fine-to-great Messiah’s already available, who stands to benefit from this lackluster, hardly serviceable offering? William Boughton’s conducting is pedestrian at best–the performance lumbers along politely, ignoring every one of Handel’s many opportunities to soar. This is especially excruciating in the choruses: rarely have “And he shall purify”, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates”, and “Let all the angels of God worship him” not to mention “Hallelujah” advanced with such leaden, dispassionate propriety.
Haydn's Paukenmesse, Hob.XXII:9 from 1796, was the first work he composed to honour the name day (8th September) of the Princess Maria Hermenegild. The name of Paukenmesse’ (Kettledrum Mass) stems from the employment of timpani in the Agnus Dei; evocative of hearing the advance of the enemy. At the time of composition the French armies had occupied the state of Styria in southeast Austria.
Barthold Heinrich Brockes’ text for the passion oratorio, later named after him, is among the best-known Passion librettos of the early 18th century. This version is the first recording on CD of the work based on the copy made by J S Bach himself. It is distinguished from the better-known version by a different text for the opening chorus.
Peter Neumann strikes a powerful blow for some reassessment of Handel's version. He is assisted above all by Markus Brutscher's Evangelist which has urgency, cogency and clarity in equal measure. Markus Flaig's Jesus is also effective as is the relatively modest contribution by the Cologne Chamber Choir. (BBC Music Magazine)
Mortensen's magnificent direction brings out the full measure of excitement, pathos and emotion in Handel's score…[the production] conveys an enormous amount of what makes Partenope very special.–Gramophone
Following several acclaimed albums of Handel’s operatic and choral masterpieces (including a triumphant Giulio Cesare with Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra and the oratorio La Resurrezione with British soprano Kate Royal), French harpsichordist and conductor Emmanuelle Haïm at last brings her fresh, expressive approach to Messiah. Joining her on a musically and spiritually uplifting journey for this long-awaited recording is Haïm’s own choir and period-instrument orchestra, Le Concert d’Astrée, with four of the UK’s finest Handelian singers. Having begun her career as a brilliant harpsichordist and protegee of Baroque pioneers William Christie and Christophe Rousset, Haïm has a long history with Messiah.
Of the two oratorios Haydn wrote in his old age The Creation is the more dramatic and immediate while The Seasons is more idyllic. It’s also a good deal longer, which to some extent explains why The Creation is regularly performed while its country cousin is a comparatively rare visitor to the concert hall. There is no denying that the later work contains a lot of good music and has a more folksy character; Austrian folk music is never far away. It is also has a more leisurely pace with long stretches of admittedly beautiful but slow and restrained music. There are moments of drama also, for example the end of part II, Summer (CD1 tracks 16 – 18), where in the recitative the soloists build up the tension. This describes how the air changes, the sky turns black, “the muted roar from the valley that announces the furious tempest”. We hear the timpani murmuring in the distance and suddenly lightning flashes, the thunder rolls and the people (the chorus) are dismayed and frightened. Harnoncourt makes the most of this, rhythmically alert and backed up by the excellent Arnold Schönberg-Choir. Suddenly the thunderstorm is over, the sun looks out again and the soloists and the choir rejoice.