Monday, May 3, 2010

Handel on eMusic: Oratorios

Odes, Oratorios, etc

Acis and Galatea. Suzie LeBlanc, etc; Les Boreades/Eric Milnes [Atma] 30.

Fanfare said it's "admirable in many ways, but it cannot quite rival William Christie’s Erato version". Gramophone said "the overall performance is closer to the spirit of Handel’s original Cannons conception than most other recordings of this standard, and I warmly recommend it". gave it 7, saying "this is not a perfect recording, but it is a really enjoyable one that offers some marvellous moments rarely heard even in globally better recordings".

Acis and Galatea. Kym Amps, etc; The Scholars of London [Dorian] 28.

8/8 from Classics Today: "Soprano Kym Amps and tenor Robin Doveton are wonderful as the two lovers".

Acis and Galatea. Kym Amps, etc; The Scholars Baroque Ensemble [Naxos] 28.

The Fanfare reviewer said "It isn't wonderful, though it certainly isn't bad", also noting that the Vox recording from the Ama Deus Ensemble is "rather weakly conducted". BBC Music gave it 3-3, describing it as "dramatically underpowered and sometimes insecure". Gramophone was more positive: "a keen feeling for Handel’s style... Had there been less fiddling with the text... I should have been happy to recommend this disc, and I still can, guardedly". In a review of the Vox recording of the Ama Deus Ensemble (see below), MusicWeb noted of the Naxos one "The performance is marred mainly by a misguided decision to transpose Polyphemus from tenor to alto". Penguin Guide gave it ** - "well worth hearing".

Acis and Galatea. Joan Sutherland, etc; Philomusica of London/Adrian Boult [Past Classics] 20.

The March 1960 review in Gramophone said "The cast selected for this recording is excellent... Sir Adrian Boult and the Philomusica deal with Handel's score in an altogether admirable manner, for there is crisp and incisive playing when it is needed, and pathos rich in sonority where the score and the sentiment demand it". Reviewing a Decca reissue (in a 2-disc set with Sutherland singing baroque arias), BBC Music said "For all its shortcomings — Sutherland rather leaden, with the male leads all at times struggling — this recording manages to communicate the wit of Gay's libretto and the easy sophistication of Handel's music, not least thanks to Boult's deft direction", and gave it 4-4. The recording was subsequently released on Chandos but isn't on emusic in that form; the following reviews are of that reissue, which is a different transfer and may be sonically different. In February 2008, Gramophone said "Plenty of things have changed for the better in the past five decades — the overwrought, trembling choruses sound particularly dated and recitatives are laboured — but there are a lot of moments that show how the class of '59 knew what they were doing". Classics Today gave it 8/8: "Yes, there are other fine performances of this work... But this one is sui generis. How nice to have it back!" MusicWeb gave it a thumbs-up, saying "this Golden Age Acis is a splendid example of technical and lyric superiority in action". Fanfare said "there are virtues to be found in this album. That they aren’t the ones one would expect to find in a modern performance of Handel’s operas needn’t surprise anyone".

Acis and Galatea. Julianne Baird, etc; Ama Deus Ensemble/Valentin Radu [Vox] 29.

In a review of the reissue of this recording by Brilliant, MusicWeb said "Julianne Baird, as Galatea, is one of the best things on the disc" but was otherwise not so impressed: "Radu’s tendency to set a tempo and let it run in a very 4-square manner is not helpful to either the piece or the performers". Also speaking of Brilliant's reissue, said "This recording under Valentin Radu could have been a correct one even if sometimes monotonous. However, problems of accuracy from the orchestra and some soloists prevent it from being a safe recommendation"; it scored 5 out of 10. Fanfare's review of the Naxos recording (see above) noted that the Vox one is "rather weakly conducted".

Acis and Galatea. Susan Hamilton, etc; Dunedin Consort and Players/John Butt [Linn] 29.

A Recording of the Month for MusicWeb: "My former version of choice for Acis, the King’s Consort... now becomes an honourable also-ran". An Editor's Choice for Gramophone: "Previous versions of merit still possess enduring appeal, but it seems to me that the Dunedins have transformed the way in which we can understand and enjoy Handel's lovely early English masterpiece". It is "warmly recommended" by International Record Review. It got 3-4 from BBC Music, though: "Overall a good version, though several better it".

Alexander's Feast, including Harp concerto op.4/6 and Organ concerto op.4/1. The Sixteen; The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers [Coro] 37.

The Fanfare reviewer narrows the options down to this one and Gardiner's recording on Philips. "Of the two versions, Christophers’s is to my mind texturally the more closely integrated and satisfying. When it comes to the performances, it is Gardiner’s more pointed and characterful reading that has the edge. Christophers’s more relaxed lyricism at times runs the risk of creating an impression of blandness", although the reviewer praises Christophers's soloists. BBC Music gave it full marks in a short review. Gramophone's 1991 review of this recording's original release on Collins said "while very much admiring the Gardiner recording, I warmly recommend this new one by Christophers. Nancy Argenta's performance is particularly memorable and the choral singing of The Sixteen is a model of clarity". In 2005, the reviewer called it "a superb performance" while noting the "unsuitable church acoustic". It scored 9 from "it is certainly the best Handel recording that these performers have made. I am delighted to warmly welcome its reissue on Coro, and hope it wins the ode many new friends".

Alexander's Feast, plus Bach's 'Alles mit Gott', BWV1127. The Bach Sinfonia/Daniel Abraham [Dorian] 32.

American Record Guide said "Abraham is thoroughly reliable and satisfactory , but his soloists are light-voiced and a bit on the pallid side - no competition for Christophers's team... [the pacing] lacks the excitement and thrust that Christophers delivers". The ensemble's web site provides 2 positive reviews (via PDF) from Early Music America and Choral Journal.

Alexander's Feast; Ode for St Cecilia's Day (arr Mozart, and both in German). Handel & Haydn Society/Christopher Hogwood [Arabesque] 51.

This was originally recorded in 1993 for L'Oiseau-Lyre, but never released until Arabesque got hold of it. gave it top marks: "some of Christopher Hogwood’s most satisfying work, and a performance sparkling with life, emotional contrasts, and musical integrity. It isn’t easy to make Handel’s greatest English music sound comfortable in German Mozartian form, yet Hogwood does this with disarming brilliance." One Fanfare reviewer said "Hogwood’s soloists are confident in their individual presentations and behind the notes... The chorus and orchestra are also extraordinarily fine", while another said "for the Mozart arrangements, the new Arabesque set can be warmly recommended, and is a most welcome addition to the catalogs"; that reviewer also recommended The Sixteen's recording on Coro for the original version of Alexander's Feast.

L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Linda Perillo, etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 49.

"Martini’s rendering is, frankly, a disgrace, with very few redeeming features... this recording is not recommended under any circumstances. Oh, the shame of it!" - so said, giving it 2 out of 10. Fanfare said "in general [it] rarely rises above the level of mediocrity". MusicWeb said "The performances comes over as sober and a little dutiful; they are severely lacking in charm and humour... A performance of ‘L’Allegro’ should be enchanting and this one isn’t". Penguin Guide gave it just * - "from the start the measured numbers bring limp, heavy-handed performances with poor ensemble". Did nobody like it? On ClassicalNet, we read "There's no doubt that they are more polished representations of this work. At the same time, there is something very appealing about this intimate and relaxed reading".

Athalia. Elisabeth Scholl, etc; Junge Kantorei; Barockorchester Frankfurt/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 61.

"the acoustic is much too resonant and there are occasional moments of uncertain ensemble that betray the recording’s live origins", said Gramophone; "Martini shows himself to be a good Handelian, conveying the majesty of the big choruses, where he often establishes a good rhythm, and his tempos are for the most part well chosen", but the recording "hardly begins to compete" with Christopher Hogwood's 1986 L'Oiseau-Lyre one. BBC Music gave it 3-3 in a short review, saying it had "a mainly strong cast" and was "a thoughtful performance". Fanfare was not so impressed: "Athalia badly needs a recommend-able recording, but this is not it. Joachim Carlos Martini seems to be a talented conductor, and he achieves some impressive effects with his period-instrument orchestra... The virtues of the performance go for little in the final analysis, I fear, because of the singing" (and the reviewer also says Hogwood's recording is the clear first choice). The Penguin Guide said "Very well cast and stylishly performed" and gave it ***. According to Naxos's catalogue, it also got a 9 out of 10 from French magazine Répertoire.

Belshazzar. Mark LeBrocq, etc; Maulbronner Kammerchor; Hannoversche Hofkapelle/Jurgen Buday [K&K] 52.

MusicWeb said "This is an apt record of what was probably a very exciting live event ... Despite the cuts and the limitations of live performance, it might be recommendable as a documentation of the second version of Handel’s oratorio", but the reviewer didn't like the voice of countertenor Patrick von Goethem. gave it 6: "It is hard to suggest anyone other than completists would bother, given the superior alternative choices".

Deborah. Elisabeth Scholl, etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 74.

This got 5 out of 10 from "The usual problems with Martini’s performances are plain for all to hear: the choir struggle bravely with the English language, and this could be overlooked if they did not sound so clumsy and heavy. Good intentions abound more plentifully than good standards, and sadly this also applies to a few of the soloists". BBC Music gave it 3-3: "This new recording, taken from a concert performance, has its attractions, notably some shapely solo singing from Elisabeth Scholl [and] Lawrence Zazzo... And while the choral singing is pleasant enough, it is often handicapped by Martini's worthy but slightly stolid conducting". Comparing this with the recording by Robert King on Hyperion, one Fanfare reviewer said "The new Naxos is altogether bigger, bolder, and brasher.... In a work of this bellicose nature, there is a case to be made for the forthright method. But I find King overall the more sympathetic interpreter, and several of the best numbers in the work seem to me to demand his lighter touch". Another reviewer said "there’s a choice between King’s greater polish and better solo team, and Martini’s greater sense of theatre and drama... The Naxos set is certainly a good bargain, distinguished above all by Martini’s conviction and flair. He is unquestionably an excellent Handelian". Classics Today gave it 8/8 and said it is preferable to the Hyperion set. One MusicWeb reviewer said "if you give this modestly-priced issue a miss, you’ll be depriving yourself of some truly wonderful music, expertly executed", while a second said "My overall impression is one of insecurity and occasional insensitivity to the heroic nature of the score. In spite of its historical interest, this is therefore not a performance to be praised unreservedly". It got **(*) from the Penguin Guide: "rhythms tend to be too square, the choral singing is fresh and lively, but the soloists make a variable team".

Esther. Linda Russell etc; The Sixteen; The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers [Coro] 40.

Gramophone called it "a strong, stylish and attractive Esther which offers plenty to enjoy", although the reviewer preferred Christopher Hogwood's recording. gave it a 9 and called it "a recording that Handel lovers should listen to many times". There were 2 reviews in Fanfare: one said "There can be little question that the true heroes of the present recording are Christophers, who conducts the work with a fervent conviction that makes the excellent Hogwood look at times a little prosaic, and his quite magnificent chorus... His soloists enjoy somewhat more mixed fortunes... In general, though, this is a quite splendid performance of a work more often mentioned by historians than heard, a fate it certainly does not deserve"; the other noted "a grandeur of choral sound beyond anything offered by Hogwood’s perfectly respectable performance... Where, furthermore, Hogwood’s soloists were all at least adequate and in some cases much better than that term implies, Christophers’ group is even finer overall". Klassik Heute gave it 9-8-9 (artistic quality, sound, overall impression). The Penguin Guide gave it *** - "an aptly intimate view, light and fresh". The one negative review comes from

Gideon. Barbara Hannigan, etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 73.

This is a pasticcio created in 1769 by John Christopher Smith and Thomas Morell. One MusicWeb reviewer called it "an enjoyable performance of (often) familiar music, given an interesting new flavour", while another said "there aren’t many serious reservations to be made about the spirit of the interpretation, even if there are some problematic features along the way". It got 7/8 from Classics Today, which said "While all of the soloists have their shining moments, there's nothing here that's especially impressive either. The Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra plays very well, with requisite energy and precision under Joachim Carlos Martini, who does as well with this material as can be expected". gave it 6, calling it "a curiosity that is well worth hearing". Fanfare didn't say much about the performance, although it noted "Smith not only makes his Handelian choices with acumen, but was himself a composer of fair accomplishment... [Morell's libretto] is serviceable if rarely inspired".

Hercules. Peter Kooij, etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 76.

"I can recommend this Naxos recording for those on a budget or as a supplement to the Minkowski recording [on Archiv]" - Fanfare. One MusicWeb reviewer said "This is a well appointed set, but one which lacks the fire of drama. At three discs long you might consider it better to save up and try and get one of the other performances; frankly, that’s what I’d do", while another gave it a thumbs-up and said "the singing, playing and theatrical and musical direction on the current release would have had to be extraordinary to better [Minkowski's]. They aren’t, quite – but they are very good indeed and full of life and integrity. There really is much to enjoy here". Gramophone said "in certain respects Hercules is Martini's most consistently agreeable Handel recording yet". American Record Guide said "this is a very satisfying and enjoyable presentation of this great work", although not as good as competing recordings from Minkowski and Gardiner.

Israel in Babylon. Kantorei Saarlouis; Ensemble UnaVolta/Joachim Fontaine [K617] 56.

This is a pasticcio created by Edward Toms in 1764. No reviews found.

Israel in Egypt. Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon [Naxos] 49.

A thumbs-up from MusicWeb: "Whatever detailed shortcomings there may be here, what matters is that the performance as a whole sounds live - although it is not - and has a real feeling for the vigour of Handel’s inspiration... This is a real winner". Praise also from Fanfare: "Of recordings of the entire work on period instruments, most critics seem to agreed that Parrott on EMI is the best, and it is indeed a good one. I would place this recording from Naxos on at least a level with Parrott, and perhaps give it preference because of its less funereal part I and more forceful presentation of parts II and III". American Record Guide said "A really great performance of this astounding score should inspire awe, thrills, and excitement; and this one does pretty consistently once it picks up speed". BBC Music gave it 3-3, saying the choir "is on the slender side".

Israel in Egypt (shortened version). The Sixteen; The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers [Coro] 34.

This version lacks the first of the three parts, 'The sons of Israel do mourn', and there are also other bits left out. The MusicWeb review says, "Only Part two has survived without cuts. The only reason I can think of to take this decision is a financial one. Artistically it is very unsatisfying". Speaking of the original issue on Collins Classics, which had the full work with all 3 parts, Gramophone said "in spite of the fine choral singing, this is not a set I can recommend", noting some poor solo singing. also (an 8): "this ‘1771’ version – unlike conventional ‘highlights’ discs in general - reveals what a theatrical and musical masterpiece Israel in Egypt is without its padding and superfluous arias... The weak soloists and hints of fatigue that slightly marred the complete recording do not show ... making Christophers’s performance seem more vivid and exciting than it originally really was". The Penguin Guide reviewed the complete set on its appearance on Regis Records, and gave it *(**) - "The playing and singing are bright, but sadly the (originally Collins) recording is so reverberant that there is a serious loss of inner detail".

Israel in Egypt. Akademisk Kor & Orkester/Morten Topp [Classico] 47.

No reviews found.

Israel in Ägypten (ie, Israel in Egypt, sung in German). Knabenchor Hannover; Capella Agostino Steffani/Heinz Hennig [Bella Musica] 31.

No reviews found.

Jephtha. Julian Podger, etc; Maulbronner Kammerchor; Barockorchester der Kosterkonzerte/Jurgen Budday [K&K] 22.

According to MusicWeb: "If you are curious about Handel’s Jephtha this performance is adequate, but you risk missing the work’s essential genius, far better to save up and buy John Eliot Gardiner’s classic account. But if you are an admirer of Emma Kirkby’s, then you might care to have this on your shelves". Gramophone agrees: "Its outstanding feature, the artistry of Emma Kirkby, cannot justify preferring it as a version of one of Handel’s greatest oratorios to the much fuller version under Gardiner, one of his finest achievements".

Joshua. Mark LeBrocq, etc; Maulbronner Kammerchor; Hannoversche Hofkapelle/Jurgen Buday [K&K] 61.

This is "a wet noodle of a reading", according to Fanfare; "From what I can tell by comparing it to excerpts of [Buddayy's] Solomon, Saul, and Messiah, this is the weakest of the lot". MusicWeb says "Had I been present at this performance, I am sure that I would have joined in the applause preserved at the end of the second CD – I certainly would not have felt short-changed. Had the Hyperion version [conducted by Robert King] not been available, I could have given this recording a more hearty welcome. As it is, the best outshines the mostly good". American Record Guide says much the same: "while this is a fairly effective showing for Budday, and enjoyable of itself, it falls short of the higher stylishness and musicality of King's recording".

Joshua. John Aler, etc; Palmer Singers; Brewer Chamber Orchestra/Rudolph Palmer [Newport Classic] 35.

Comparing this with Robert King's recording on Hyperion, Gramophone said "The American recording is somewhat less polished; but I have to say that there were a great numbers I found much more enjoyable here. Most of their tempos are quicker and more dramatic, and there is a vitality about the whole which, by comparison, often makes the English performance sound languid". In a review of the K&K recording (above), American Record Guide said - comparing Palmer and King - "My perception has always been that Palmer's recording offers better solo and dramatic qualities, but King more grandeur and musical richness".

Judas Maccabaeus. Guy de Mey, etc; U.C. Berkeley Chamber Chorus; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi] 65.

Gramophone found this "a very acceptable performance, livelier and more dramatic in manner than the recent one under [Robert] King [on Hyperion]".

Judas Maccabaeus. Mark LeBrocq, etc; Maulbronner Kammerchor; Musica Florea Prague/Jurgen Budday [K&K] 58.

MusicWeb said "This is an excellent recording of one of Handel's best and most popular oratorios, and is highly recommended". Fanfare also praised it, saying "The performance is generally a good one, greatly helped by the fact that the German forces are joined by English-speaking soloists. Budday’s conducting is, for the most part, sensitive to the requirements of the score and Handel’s tempo markings... The factor that makes this recording uncompetitive with the best of the competition is that it is not complete. Aside from some recitatives, Budday cuts the B section and da capo of “From mighty kings” and, surprisingly, the well-known March from act III".

Judas Maccabaeus. Jan Peerce, etc; Vienna Academy Chorus; Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Thomas Scherman [Phoenix USA] 53.

In 1975, Gramophone said "In spite of some fine singing, I cannot recommend these records. The quality of the sound, never good, is downright poor on the third side... Thomas Scherman is a notable musician, but he does not seem to me to have much feeling for Handel".

Judas Maccabaeus. Heather Harper, etc; English Chamber Orchestra/Johannes Somary [Alto/Musical Concepts] 56.

On its release in 1972, Gramophone said "in the main, a competent performance. The solo singing is mostly very distinguished". It was subsequently reissued by Regis, and the MusicWeb reviewer said "While this recording shows a few wrinkles - after all, it is more than 30 years old - it has enough interest to more than justify its bargain price". It was also released by Brilliant as part of a Handel box set; the MusicWeb reviewer was unimpressed by the "huge, vibrato laden sound" of the chorus but described the orchestra as "crisp, rhythmic and not a little stylish" and said "The recording is blessed with four very stylish British Handelians and is worth listening to for them, if nothing else". gave the Brilliant reissue 6 out of 10: "Both the orchestra and the choir sound a little “old-fashioned” but Johannes Somary’s conducting is full of energy... the soloists are of a very good standard".

Messiah. Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki [BIS] 55.

An 8-8-10 (artistic quality, sound, and overall impression) from KlassikHeute, and a 4-4 from BBC Music ("a particularly moving account"). Gramophone says "Many will identify closely with Suzuki’s concentrated rhetorical view of Messiah. Others will miss that home-grown quality of laid-back characterization executed with almost nonchalant grandeur... Suzuki’s genuinely devotional spirit lends effective weight to much of Part 2 (even if the string playing is intermittently scrappy) and gives this Messiah a special place in a distinguished list of recordings". In a 2007 MusicWeb review of a Masaaki Suzuki concert, Bernard Jacobson notes in passing, "it still stands, even for me who grew up in Messiah-land, as the finest performance of that much mistreated work I have ever heard". Penguin Guide gave it *** - "With his excellent Japanese singers and players, Masaaki Suzuki here excels himself".

Messiah. Collegium Musicum 90/Richard Hickox [Chandos] 54.

Gramophone said "Hickox has assembled a first-rate team for his recording and, though I sometimes find myself at odds with him over details, he has succeeded in conveying to me the humanity of Handel's masterly score, its contrasts, its gestures, its radiance and its tenderness... all in all a splendid achievement; I can imagine few readers being disappointed". Only a 6 from, where the reviewer said "Hickox’s speeds are well chosen, and the technical skill of his musicians cannot be disputed. But the traditional direction of the oratorio is slightly too safe to inspire excitement, and for stretches the performers sound as if they were on autopilot. Those with specific reason to buy this version will probably not be disappointed. Others wishing to buy a cheap complete recording of a historically aware Messiah performance may be more satisfied by Andrew Parrott (Virgin Veritas) or Diego Fasolis (Arts)".

Messiah (including alternative versions of various bits). U.C. Berkeley Chamber Chorus; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi] 52.

"The performance itself is stylish with plenty of appropriate attention to details of phrasing, articulation and declamation", said Gramophone. "My greatest disappointment on listening to this carefully considered version arises from the undercharacterization of Handel's music... Perhaps the least attractive aspect of the release, however, concerns the recording itself which is dry, lustreless and almost entirely lacking in resonance".

Messiah. Scholars Baroque Ensemble [Naxos] 49.

A 15-track highlights album is here. "there is plenty of fresh air about this Messiah, and I welcome it to the catalogue" - Gramophone. Penguin Guide gave it **(*) - "on the smallest possible scale... At brisk speeds, with rhythms well sprung, this will please those who fancy such an approach, though the period-instrumental sound is abrasive, and none of the singers has a voice of star quality". The Naxos catalogue says the highlights disc got a 10 (out of 10) from French magazine Répertoire.

Messiah. Trinity Choir and Orchestra/Owen Burdick [Naxos] 54.

"While this recording is not likely to blow anyone away with virtuosity, new insights, or even superior sound quality, it's a good middle of the road performance whose authority and ultimately its overall appeal reside in its very fine choir, decent orchestra, and competent-to-excellent soloists" - Classics Today, giving it 7/6.

Messiah. Choir of Clare College; Freiburger Barockorchester/René Jacobs [Harmonia Mundi] 44.

Gramophone said "Jacobs juxtaposes brilliance with foolishness... Some might like the waywardness of iconoclastic challenges but, in truth, a lot of the new ideas here are poorly conceived and show a poor grasp of Handel's musical personality. For an infinitely more rewarding fresh look at Handel's most familiar music, look no further than the Dunedin Consort's performance". BBC Music gave it 4-5 and said "Jacobs achieves a result which will disappoint few if any readers". Fanfare described it as "replete with Jacobs’s trademark swiftness and precision. The Freiburger Barockorchester plays superbly for him, and there is much to savor among the solo contributions, so why is this not my recommended version? Simply, the soloists are not starry enough to bring it off". Classics Today gave it 8/8, although the review maybe implies a lower score: "this is a real mixed bag... There is a lot of impressive showing off here--and a lot of really gorgeous Handel, but ultimately the overtly dramatic gestures come across as contrived and obvious rather than well-integrated and ingratiating". Classics Today France gave it 9/10. American Record Guide said "Jacobs's vocal forces are outstanding... Technically, Jacobs offers a performance of the highest overall quality and zest... but it is just a bit too idiosyncratic to be the only or the prime recording one wants to live with".

Messiah. Dunedin Consort & Players/John Butt [Linn] 57.

A Recording of the Month for MusicWeb, which gave a rather comprehensive comparison with Paul McCreesh's recording and concluded "I’d say there are more gains than losses to be had from this 1742 Dublin experience... To sum up, McCreesh is very good but Butt is often better. McCreesh’s instrumental contributions are generally more stylish and his bigger choruses sometimes have more pizazz. However, partly by his consistent clarity in articulating the text Butt conveys more spirituality which in the final analysis is more significant. He also has the fresher and more immediate recording". Gramophone said "Butt and the Dunedin Consort marry astute scholarship to sincere artistic expression and the result is comfortably the freshest, most natural, revelatory and transparently joyful Messiah I have heard for a very long time". It got 4-5 from BBC Music but only 4/9 from Classics Today France. It got a 7 from "Butt’s conducting is particularly stylish and accurate, and both the orchestra and the choir are excellent... The whole result is slightly lacking in dramatic dimension, and the soloists are sometimes just honourable or average". Finally, Fanfare said "While this one has many positive qualities, in the end it is no match for its strongest competition... there is simply not enough energy and drive in this performance".

Messiah. Tenebrae Choir; London Symphony Orchestra/Colin Davis [LSO Live] 53.

BBC Music gave it 4-4: "His soloists are all good... The Tenebrae Choir, with its thirty-odd voices, proves near ideal for a performance on this sort of scale, and their sheer neatness is a delight. And whatever the lack of period sensitivities among the LSO, there’s no denying that this is high-quality playing, even if the music’s character registers more strongly with period forces". Fanfare, however, described it as "a performance in which very little happens—it comes across as note reading for the most part". Classics Today France gave it 8/6, while gave it 3-2-3. Gramophone said "It's the personal connection that I feel is lost from this performance".

Messiah. The Sixteen/Harry Christophers [Coro] 56.

"For a period-instrument performance, this recording from Christophers is as good as any I have heard, and I highly recommend it" - Fanfare. It got full marks from BBC Music, which said "For those disinclined to live with Marc Minkowski’s idiosyncrasies, Paul McCreesh’s evangelising or William Christie’s Gallic perspective, Christophers’ is a new version to rival Trevor Pinnock’s more ‘mainstream’ 1988 Messiah – and by a pinch, eclipses it". Gramophone said "Christophers conducts with finesse and integrity. This fine team performance is a safe recommendation for anyone wanting to acquire an all-purpose "period" Messiah". Classics Today France gave it 9/8.

Messiah. Saint Michael's Singers; English Symphony Orchestra/William Boughton [Nimbus] 57.

Disaster! "releasing a commercial recording of this pedestrian and instantly forgettable performance is mystifying", according to, giving it 2 out of 10. Gramophone said "I can see no purpose whatsoever in the very ordinary Nimbus issue, particularly given the fact that it comes at full price. It is the kind of well-behaved, dull performance, using the Watkins Shaw edition, you would have encountered up and down the country before the reformists and sound-cleaners got going some 25 years ago". Classics Today asked "Why? With so many fine-to-great Messiah's already available, who stands to benefit from this lackluster, hardly serviceable offering?" (score 2/6).

Messiah. Coro della Radio Svizzera; I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis [Arts] 53.

The review in Gramophone said "The approach is light, intimate, rhythmically bouyant – almost to a fault – and both vocal and instrumental lines are constitently clear. Fasolis is too inclined to favour bouncy, almost jerky accents, which tend to exaggerate effects that are evident enough without such under-lining... The orchestral playing is exemplary, the choral singing rather less so, because this non-English choir too often seems unaware of the import of what they are singing". Classics Today gave it 7/6: "This is a thoughtful, small-scaled, pious (rather than dramatic) reading".

Messiah. Amor Artis Chorale; English Chamber Orchestra/Johannes Somary [Vanguard] 53.

Described in a Gramophone Collection article on this work as "an attractive middle-of-the-road account, faithful to Handel's vision in virtually all respects, except for a question mark over the choral decoration". It was released by Brilliant as part of a Handel box set; gave it 6 out of 10 - "It is slightly monotonous, but the interpretation is sensitive and with a certain dramatic sense". MusicWeb said "On repeated listening to this recording, I rather warmed to it and began to relax a little when the chorus started singing".

Messiah. Oregon Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra/Helmuth Rilling [Haenssler] 53.

Just 2-4 from BBC Music: "Period instruments may well have supplied the bite and colour lacking here. My chief quarrel, however, is with Rilling’s approach to rhythm: tempi are often hurried, insistent and almost obsessively precise. The soloists sound uncomfortable with this rigidity". In the 2003 Gramophone Collection article on Messiah, the reviewer said "Rilling can always be relied on for sensible, middle-ofthe-road solutions to choral works. His Messiah is no exception".

Messiah. Huddersfield Choral Society; Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Malcolm Sargent [Past Classics] 30.

In its Collection article on Messiah, Gramophone said "Easy to make fun of today, Sargent's methods and manner held great sway and brought much pleasure to many in their time". I'm not sure about the provenance of this recording - the listed soloists rule out the 1947 or 1959 releases.

Messiah. The Ambrosian Singers; I Solisti Veneti/Claudio Scimone [Arts] 50.

A 27-track highlights disc is here. This "may be regarded as a 'middle-of-the-road' performance of Messiah but it is none the less effective for being that", according to Gramophone, which reviewed it together with Nicholas McGegan's recording; "There are curiosities, certainly, but the performance has a radiance and a liveliness all too lacking in the Harmonia Mundi set".

Messiah. Boston Baroque/Martin Pearlman [Telarc] 53.

A 27-track highlights disc is here. This is "one of the happiest Messiahs on disc", Gramophone said. But, "After a while, the relentless good humour and scarcely varied pacing and texture of this performance become counterproductive, even a little wearing".

Messiah. Stockholm Bach Choir; Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra members/Anders Ohrwall [First Impression] 48.

No reviews found.

Messiah. Akademisk Kor & Orkester/Morten Topp [Classico] 51.

No reviews found.

Messiah. Ama Deus Ensemble/Valentin Radu [Vox] 50.

No reviews found.

Messiah (arr. Mozart). Maulbronner Kammerchor; Hannover Hofkapelle/Jurgen Budday [K&K] 48.

"a typical historically informed performance, light-footed and airy. The soloists are often fine", says Fanfare. "There are so many Messiahs available that one is only going to want this uniquely for Mozart’s contribution".

Messiah (arr. Mozart). Handel & Haydn Society/Andrew Parrott [Arabesque] 52.

BBC Music gave it 4 for performance, 3 for sound: "The overall effect is one of spiritual maturity. Parrott is ably assisted by his team of soloists". But the reviewer says Rilling's recording on Haenssler is the best choice for Mozart's version.

Messiah (arr. Mozart). Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart; Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmut Rilling [Haenssler] 54.

Gramophone said "Apart from some reservations voiced earlier in the review [notably the conductor's "slavish adherence to rather stiff four-square rhythmic patterns"] this is a lively performance of Messiah which is certainly worth considering for the solo contributions, above all. And if rhythmic straitjackets do not impede your enjoyment then you will find much else to enjoy as well". A 21-track highlights album is available here.

Messiah (arr. Mozart but sung in English). Huddersfield Choral Society; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Mackerras [Signum] 47.

Penguin Guide gave it *** and a key symbol, saying "altogether this is very satisfying indeed". MusicWeb called it "a ripping good performance" and said 'If you want a traditional Messiah with added wind parts, then you cannot go wrong with this one". BBC Music gave it 4-3 and called it "highly enjoyable".

Messiah (in German). Solitenvereinigung und Rundfunkchor Berlin; Rundfunk Sinfonie Orchester Berlin/Helmut Koch [Berlin] 53.

Reviewing a highlights disc of this 1975 recording, MusicWeb said "This is more for those who wish to immerse themselves in thick orchestral sound and big-boned choruses. It may also suit those who wish to remind themselves of how far we have come in understanding the style of this music".

Messiah - "Favorite choruses and arias". Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus/Robert Shaw [Telarc] 16.

Reviewing the full set, Gramophone said "The recording reaches only half-way towards a Handelian style... Shaw seems uninterested in imposing any sort of consistency. But at least he is lively".

Messiah - choruses. Bratislava City Choir; Capella Istropolitana/Jaroslav Krcek [Naxos] 22.

No reviews found.

Nabal. Stephan MacLeod, etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 55.

This is a pasticcio created in 1964 by John Christopher Smith and Thomas Morell. MusicWeb said "The performance is neat and conscientious, sometimes more... this is an honourable presentation of a work, the problematical and artificial nature of which means that recordings will be few and far between". BBC Music gave it 4-3, saying it's "a non-starter as drama, with a sometimes ludicrous mismatch between words and music. As an eclectic cross-section of Handel’s works, with the emphasis on easy pastoral tunefulness, Nabal has its points, I suppose, though if you value the composer as one of the world’s supreme musical dramatists, you may want to give it a wide berth. No serious complaints about the performance". One Fanfare reviewer said "I am happy to welcome this performance, which is of an acceptable standard, and in places better than that somewhat half-hearted phrase suggests", while another said "On almost every level, Nabal is a disastrous failure... The oratorio's total lack of dramatic impact or flair seems to have affected that stylish Handelian Martini, who sounds relatively uninspired by the whole affair, as does his (oversized) chorus, who contribute some sluggish, bored-sounding work. The sole compensation comes from some really fine singing from McLeod, Perillo, and van der Heijden". Gramophone's reviewer concluded with "Not‚ then‚ an essential purchase‚ but certainly an interesting curiosity". Classics Today gave it 7/7: "The performance is good enough, but as you might guess, the work has no musical cohesion and it is not very engrossing dramatically". Penguin Guide gave it **(*) - "The principal snag is that the chorus is dimly recorded". gave it just 4 out of 10. According to the Naxos catalogue, the French magazine Répertoire gave it a Ré (meaning recommended).

Ode for St Cecilia's Day. Dorothee Mields (soprano); Mark Wilde (tenor); Alsfelder Vokalensemble; Concerto Polacco/Wolfgang Helbich [Naxos] 13.

"an okay performance", said Classics Today, giving it 7/9. "Much of the problem rests with conductor Wolfgang Helbich's often-sluggish tempos and uninspired articulation". gave it a less forgiving 5: "The overall performance is serviceable enough, but the choir and orchestra both lack weight and expression... One can only assume that such disappointing lack of balance is due to Wolfgang Helbich’s unimaginative direction rather than the recording venue or engineers". Penguin Guide gave it **.

Ode for St Cecilia's Day; Organ concerto no.13; Zadok the Priest.Julia Gooding (soprano); Jeremy Ovenden (tenor); Francesco Cera (organ); Coro della Radio Svizzera; I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis [Arts] 17.

Without praising it too highly, Gramophone called this "a neatly characterised and pleasing performance". MusicWeb said "It is heartening to see Handel’s English works making their way amongst non-English speaking groups. If this disc does not quite live up to its opening promise, it’s certainly good enough to make me look forward to the group’s next offering".

La Resurrezione. Combattimento Consort Amsterdam/Jan Willem de Vriend [Challenge] 30.

4-2 from Fanfare said "For listeners not indissolubly wedded to period-instrument sonorities, de Vriend offers what well may now constitute the best performance overall" (although the reviewer admitted to not having heard the McGegan recording). Classics Today, on the other hand, said "This is a good second choice (or third, after McGegan) for this entertaining work" (the top choice being Marc Minkowski on Archiv) and gave it 7/8. Even less impressed was Classics Today France, giving it 5/7 and basically saying that bass Klaus Mertens ruined it. However, gave it a 9 and said "This is the most consistent performance of La Resurrezione on disc".

La Resurrezione. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi] 44.

In a brief review, no star rating given, Gramophone, reviewing both this recording and one by Ton Koopman, says "It seems these days that early music performances increasing hinge on the stamp of the conductor. The colourfulness and polish of the Koopman performance are characteristic, just as the artful string and harpsichord playing are of McGegan's. With such fine singers, we're plainly spoilt for choice".

Samson. Thomas Randle, etc; The Sixteen; The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers [Coro] 81.

Praised by MusicWeb, whose reviewer notes "listeners who tend not to appreciate baroque opera, and especially Handel, because of soprano and counter-tenor leads, will find this combination of rich tenor voices enjoyable". In its initial incarnation on Collins Classics, it got full marks from BBC Music: "dramatic Handel as fine as any on record". gave it 8, saying "Christophers takes a traditional oratorio approach, carefully pausing between most movements, enough to prevent the essential sense of rising drama in Parts 1 and 2. But this recording is unlikely to be surpassed easily, and is most warmly recommended". Gramophone's reviewer says "I suspect, however, that Christophers is probably less concerned with the drama of the work than with its religious and philosophical aspects, and of course with presenting a direct and faithful realization of it", going on to say "He has an excellent cast... The Sixteen provide clear and spirited choral singing throughout".

Samson. Mark LeBrocq, etc; Maulbronner Kammerchor; Maulbronn Baroque Orchestra/Jurgen Budday [K&K] 43.

No reviews found.

Saul. Kirsten Blaise, etc; Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart; Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmut Rilling [Haenssler] 80.

Fanfare said this "has much to recommend it" but preferred Gardiner's recording on Philips. Gramophone said Daniel Taylor's "honey-toned David is easily the best on disc" and praised the choir but said "Such good work is undone by Rilling’s failure to realise the musical expression of more extreme passions". Klassik Heute gave it 8-8-8. BBC Music gave it 3-4, saying "Notwithstanding a few weaknesses, Rilling convincingly sustains the drama" and naming René Jacobs' recording, listed below, as the benchmark. American Record Guide said that against rival recordings, "Rilling is not to be taken seriously".

Saul. Rosemary Joshua, etc; RIAS Kammerchor; Concerto Koln/René Jacobs [Harmonia Mundi] 46.

Top marks from Classics Today, Classics Today France, Klassik Heute, and BBC Music, and a Gramophone Editor's Choice. gave it 7 out of 10, saying "Although René Jacobs’ wilfully inconoclastic bad habits are deplorable to purists (I count myself among that outcast tribe), I cannot remember enjoying his Handel as much as this... there are serious problems in this performance regarding musical decisions. But if these frequent blots had been replaced with more sensible decisions based on Handel’s score this might well have been the perfect Saul". One Fanfare reviewer said "While there can be little doubt as to Jacobs’s commitment to Handel’s first great oratorio, he ultimately fails to convince me that he has lived with Saul long enough to penetrate all its depths", whereas another said "Jacobs has superb choral singing and orchestral playing, but the soloists are not on the level of the two other leading versions [McCreesh and Gardiner]". Penguin Guide gave it **(*) - "a vibrant alternative performance to McCreesh's enoyable DG set".

Saul. Stephen Varcoe, etc; Maulbronner Kammerchor; Hannoversche Hofkapelle/Jurgen Budday [K&K] 63.

"This set reeks of "quasi-professional oratorio society".", according to Classics Today, which gave it 5/7. gave it 5, saying "This Saul simply fails to ever launch itself onto a sufficient level... It is a crying shame that this recording is so disappointing, but I do not wish to imply that it is awfully bad: if I were to attend a local amateur performance of this standard I would be thrilled. As it is, Budday’s Saul is hardly the worst recording of the oratorio yet made: that dubious honour goes to the abrasive and incoherent version by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Teldec). This is closely followed by Joachim Carlos Martini (Naxos), whose decision to perform Saul even more complete than Handel ever did fails to obscure the generally dismal quality of his performance". MusicWeb said "As a whole it is lacklustre and without real commitment from all participants... the main thing is that it is very undramatic, and that is a deadly sin".

Saul. Stephan MacLeod etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 89.

The Fanfare reviewer had reservations about some of the singers, but said "Anyone who is tempted by Naxos's bargain price to discover the oratorio for the first time, however, will find the money well spent" (not that 89 tracks is a bargain for emusic subscribers though!). Gramophone said "this version has a very great deal to be said for it, and had I to choose a single recording of Saul it might well be this one". Penguin Guide gave it **(*) - "a clear, fresh, lively reading".

Solomon. Carolyn Sampson, etc; RIAS Kammerchor; Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin/Daniel Reuss [Harmonia Mundi] 59.

This got 3-3 from BBC Music: "sleek playing from the Berlin period instrument players, though the choir sounds too slim-line for the big moments... Reuss’s conducting is slack, allowing tempos to drag". It was an Editor's Choice in Gramophone, however: "I enjoyed the Harmonia Mundi recording almost unreservedly. Abetted by his crack period orchestra and 40_strong chorus, Reuss is responsive alike to the oratorio's ceremonial splendour and its fragrant pastoral tinta... Where the earlier recordings each have at least one unsatisfactory soloist, Reuss's solo line-up could hardly be bettered". And it got 10/10 from Classics Today: "This is one of those recordings that from the opening moments assures you that you won't be going anywhere--it's that good, it's that compelling, and it's absolutely essential". gave it 4-5-4. American Record Guide said "Taken on its own merits, Reuss's cast is a good one... Reuss has a star orchestral group... and his chorus is very good... His tempos are intelligent, but his direction quickly becomes much too stable and even leaden".

Solomon. Michael Chance, etc; Maulbronner Kammerchor; Hannoversche Hofkapelle/Jurgen Budday [K&K] 41.

Only 5 out of 10 from "this decent performance represents commendable spirit and good intentions... As with previous K&K Handel recordings, this cannot be given a safe recommendation... it is fair to observe that among the weaknesses in Budday’s performance there are also moments to relish. In the meantime, if you remain curious about the K&K recordings of Handel’s English oratorios made at Maulbronn, you would be best off starting with its respectable performance of Judas Maccabaeus". One MusicWeb reviewer was quite favourable; comparing with Martini's recording on Naxos, he said "Budday undoubtedly has more ebb and flow in the choral singing and the orchestra – to my ears a more romantic view". A second reviewer said "this is a sympathetic recording and live performances of Handel's magnificent oratorios deserve to be supported. Unfortunately given the overall level of this performance it is difficult to recommend this recording to anyone outside the circle of people who attended the event and would like these discs as a keepsake".

Solomon. Ewa Wolak, etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 64.

Described as "a fine performance" by Classics Today, which gave it 8/8. Gramophone disagreed: "not a contender... Sometimes Martini catches the right tone... but his Naxos series of Handel oratorios is rarely rewarding. At its worst, like here, the results are predominantly dreadful". One MusicWeb reviewer said "I daresay that if one had been in the audience for this performance in Rheingau one would have found it a perfectly acceptable way of spending the evening. But I am not sure that it is a performance which most will want to listen to repeatedly. This is especially the case given the very high quality of the competition". However, a second MusicWeb reviewer said "I was deeply engrossed in this performance from beginning to end and I can’t see many Handel lovers being disappointed. No big names, perhaps, but excellent musicians doing an excellent and inspired job".

Susanna. Lorraine Hunt, etc; U.C. Berkeley Chamber Chorus; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi] 46.

"This is, in short, certainly one of the best performances I have ever heard of any Handel oratorio, less selfconsciously brilliant or effective than some recently recorded ones, but marked by its integrity on every plane" - Gramophone.

Theodora. Lorraine Hunt, etc; U.C. Berkeley Chamber Chorus; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan [Harmonia Mundi] 73.

Just 2-2 from BBC Music. "the strings of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra are lightweight, scrawny and fatally lack rhythmic lift and articulation"; the reviewer praises singers Hunt and Thomas but they "are not enough to redeem a disappointing set". Gramophone was much more positive: "The playing of the 36-piece orchestra is commendably neat and precise... and the chorus too deserves praise for its intonation and general security... Altogether one could not reasonably ask for a better performance in general".

Theodora. Heather Harper, etc; English Chamber Orchestra/Johannes Somary [Alto/Musical Concepts] 47.

This was originally released on Vanguard, and has been reviewed by Gramophone 3 times now. In 1969, the reviewer said "The recording must, of course, be welcomed. And bought. It has a generally good cast, and is on the right sort of scale. But I cannot be entirely enthusiastic about it... Some of the cuts are more regrettable than others... Just as regrettable, to my mind, are tamperings with Handel's scoring". Revisiting it in 1973, the same reviewer said "Somary is a reasonably stylish Handel conductor, if sometimes a bit sticky over tempo; he is less skilled an editor, taking unjustified liberties over scoring and ornamentation. There are some excellent Handelian singers in the cast". The third review (1993) said "This is a reasonably good performance—certainly superior to that by Harnoncourt (Teldec)—but because of the considerable cuts (no fewer than five arias and several da capos and middle sections) ardent Handelians will prefer McGegan's complete (and excellent) Harmonia Mundi recording".

Tobit. Maya Boog, etc; Junge Kantorei; Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 66.

This pasticcio was created by arranger John Christopher Smith and librettist Thomas Morell in 1764. ClassicalNet describes the recording as "more than a space-filler and less than a revelation. It is completely competent, for all the good and ill that implies!". It was reviewed twice on MusicWeb, the first reviewer saying "Almost all the music is palpably Handelian and vigorously executed at that: these are not soloists or an orchestra who get involved with messes – and they acquit themselves admirably here", and the second saying "One of my main complaints about this performance is that it lacks drama, but given such an unsatisfactory plot in the first place we can’t really complain too much. Martini has assembled an excellent polyglot cast who all acquit themselves well... If you think of this as a recital disc then it is a nice proposition. Just put it on and enjoy some of Handel’s finest music in attractive performances". Klassik Heute gave it just 5-6-5 (artistic quality, sound, overall impression). American Record Guide said "The piece comes off fairly well".

Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Deborah York, etc; Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini [Naive] 55.

This got a thumbs-up from MusicWeb in 2008: "This 2001 account from Alessandrini was very well received in 2001. It is still extremely welcome now that it has been reissued and should be high on everyone’s list". Fanfare's review of the original release said "This is a brilliant realization of a work that sounds, in these performers' hands, even more masterly than I had previously thought it...A trionfo, not just for Time and Truth, but for all concerned". In 2008, another Fanfare reviewer said " Alessandrini’s Il trionfo would undoubtedly rate my recommendation if it had no competition, but events have conspired against him. Häim [on Virgin, released 2007 I think] is still the way to go". In a review of the original release, Gramophone said "This new version is done with prodigious energy and with rather rapid tempos... This is certainly the most dramatic of the three versions of Il trionfo in the catalogue". In 2001, BBC Music gave it 4-4.

Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Verita. Claron McFadden, etc; Junge Kantorei; Barockorchester Frankfurt/Joachim Carlos Martini [Naxos] 71.

What's the difference between Verita and Disinganno? Verita is an extensive 1737 revision of 1707's Disinganno. Fanfare said "this first recording (so far as I am aware) of the work's second version may be recommended with few reservations... a delightful work, sung, played, and conducted with conviction and style". Classics Today gave it 8/8, saying "The chorus, which is very big and appears to have been recorded from a far greater distance than the soloists, is splendid, as is the orchestra under Joachim Carlos Martini's leadership. The resonant acoustic makes the soloists sound a bit lonely, but otherwise, no complaints. Handel lovers should flock to this". BBC Music gave it 4-4: "The chorus, rather unwieldy in a resonant acoustic, sounds heftier than the 20-odd voices Handel assembled from London churches. But no committed Handelian could resist this first performance in 260 years".

"Arias" - from Samson, Rinaldo, Messiah, Semele, Alexander Balus, Jephta, Athalia, L'allegro..., and Solomon. Karina Gauvin (soprano); Tempo Rubato/Alexander Weimann [Atma] 19.

Classics Today France gave it 9/5, praising Gauvin but saying her voice is recorded too close and echoey. American Record Guide says this is "something quite special... She is one of the truly great singers of her day, and no Handel collector should miss this!"; of the sound, the reviewer says "The recording is notably vivid for the soloist, while [the orchestra] is placed just a little too much in the background".

"As steals the morn". Mark Padmore (tenor); The English Concert/Andrew Manze [Harmonia Mundi] 18.

A Gramophone Editor's Choice: "it is the joy in conveying the emotional core of each situation which marks out this disc". BBC Music gave it top marks and said "This is one of the most alluring recitals of its kind that has come my way for a very long time". Classics Today France gave it 8/10. American Record Guide called it "truly beautiful singing of truly beautiful music". Fanfare was less enthusiastic: "the varied collection of arias here is not mirrored in the range shown in the singing, which, though uniformly beautiful and musical in every way, is lacking in expressiveness and passion", although the reviewer concluded "if what you seek is a compilation of Handel’s greatest tenor hits, brilliantly played and well, but not stunningly, sung, and recorded with clarity by Harmonia Mundi, you will be happy with this new release".

"Choruses from the oratorios" - Messiah, Semele, Judas Maccabaeus, Jeptha, Israel in Egypt, Acis and Galatea, plus Zadok the Priest. Boston Chamber Choir and Orchestra/Robert Shorter [Rajon] 14.

No reviews found.

"Great oratorio duets". Carolyn Sampson (soprano); Robin Blaze (countertenor); Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Nicholas Kraemer [BIS] 18.

4-5 from BBC Music: "Her graceful, pearly soprano is nicely matched by his mellifluous counter-tenor, marred only by an occasional bulge of tone in the higher register. Nicholas Kraemer and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment provide well-schooled accompaniments, even if there’s a slight want of movement in places". Fanfare says "This is an exceptionally rewarding recital if you don’t make the mistake of listening to it all at once". Full marks from Klassik Heute., while gives it 4-5-4 (performance-sound-value to repertoire). Gramophone called it "a truly beautiful Handel recording, a disc to give pleasure for years to come". Penguin Guide gave it *** - "a truly distinctive partnership".

"Hallelujah Handel - Choruses from 13 Oratorios". Howard University Chorus; Handel Festival Orchestra of Washington, D.C./Stephen Simon [Arabesque] 13.

No reviews found.

"Sacred arias" - orchestral and vocal excerpts from Saul, Messiah, Solomon, and Theodora. Daniel Taylor (countertenor); Arion/Monica Huggett [Atma] 16. called this "lovely" as well as "imaginative and enjoyable", while Fanfare deemed it "highly recommendable".

Arias from Messiah, Giulio Cesare, Atalanta, Alexander's Feast, Rinaldo, and Samson, plus music by Bach. Arleen Augér (soprano); Mostly Mozart Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz [Delos] 14.

**(*) from the Penguin Guide: "The delicacy with which she tackles the most elaborate divisions and points the words is a delight".

"Handel in Love" - excerpts from Joshua, Samson, Solomon, Jephtha, Saul, Judas Maccabaeus, Messiah, and Belsahzzar. various artists/Jurgen Budday [K&K] 19.

This appears to be a sampler of the various Maulbronn oratorio recordings - see above for reviews of the full sets.

"Beecham conducting Handel". London Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham, with Leeds Festival Choir [Past Classics] 11.

Various excerpts from oratorios, plus Beecham's "The Origin of Design" (after Handel), which is incomplete I think. No reviews found.

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