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
…Against the competition, this new German recording rates very high. It is certainly superior to Harnoncourt's heavily cut and somewhat mannered Teldec reissue.
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.
These performances are very authentic, which essentially means misconceived from the start, and often downright unmusical. Using teeny tiny forces (only seven violins), and inaptly named Arte dei Suonatori, they lack just that: the art of making a pleasing sound. The loudest thing here is the continuo, consisting of harpsichord, organ, theorbo, and archlute. Its prominence and enthusiastic improvisational flourishes on what ought to be very subsidiary harmonic support destroy Handel’s balance of tone and wreck the interplay between concertino and tutti. Frankly, the whole approach is so stupid and unstylish that it’s very hard to believe that anyone could associate this kind of playing with “historically informed performance”. It’s like wearing all of your internal organs on the outside of your body, and just about as pleasant.
The chamber cantata flourished in Italy as a counterpart to public opera and oratorio, cultivated by aristocratic patrons for their personal enjoyment. Perhaps because of its essentially private origins, this pervasive Baroque form remains little known today. During his years in Italy (1706-1710), George Frideric Handel composed nearly 100 cantatas for a series of important patrons, but they have tended to be passed over in favor of his larger operas, oratorios, concertos and orchestral suites. The plan of La Risonanza to perform and record all of the cantatas with instrumental accompaniment (about one-third of the total) is therefore of signal importance for all music lovers, as it will bring this extraordinarily beautiful music once again to life (2006-2009).
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)