Brilliant Classics continues its famous Composer Edition series with one of the giants of the Baroque, George Frideric Handel, the celebrated German who settled in London. Having absorbed the German and Italian styles of his time he formed his own distinctive musical language, which, while following the current fashions and audience preferences, retained his own deep humanity and inner power.
Terpsicore (HWV)(8b) is a prologue in the form of an opéra-ballet by George Frideric Handel. Handel composed it in 1734 for a revision of his opera Il pastor fido which had first been presented in 1712. The revision of Il pastor fido with Terpsicore as the prologue was first performed on 9 November 1734 at Covent Garden theatre in London, opening Handel's first season in that newly built theatre. Terpsicore mixes dance along with solo and choral singing and was patterned after models in French operas, a particular source being Les festes grecques et romaines by Louis Fuzelier and Colin de Blamont, first presented in Paris in 1723. The work featured the celebrated French dancer Marie Sallé as well as stars of Handel's Italian operas and was a success with audiences of the day.
McGegan's recording is of considerable documentary interest in that a separate section at the conclusion of each of the three parts of Messiah - there are three discs accordingly - is reserved for the many alternative versions of arias, accompanied recitatives and choruses which Handel himself used or at least approved in performances during the 1740s and 1750s. In this way, the booklet explains, the listener can select which version of the work he/she wants to listen to at any given time. About six versions are possible from the 18 alternative tracks provided on the three CDs. By following a table printed in the back of the booklet (a few minutes' mental gymnastics are initially required) you can programme your CD player to replace particular arias with others.
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.
…From this background material Handel made something completely new, with rich, unusual sound effects in the strings. Banzo's group Al Ayre Español, which does not at all restrict itself to Spanish music, catches this kind of unusual moment quite vividly. It's a specialist group of the best kind, the kind that aims at general audiences and puts across fairly arcane material by dint of sheer musicality. An ideal choice for those who want to get deeper into how Handel's London audiences heard his music.
This album of Handel vocal selections should delight the listener with its clear, bell-like soprano and its period orchestra, its Handelian melismas and reverential songs to God. Soprano Dorothea Craxton sings with such a beautiful, creamy sound and smooth technique that one does not hear her breaths. However, this album disappoints for the sole reason that the recording quality is off-balance, often relegating Craxton to sound like a member of the ensemble as opposed to soloist (or being overpowered by one of the ensemble).
Gustav Leonhardt was one of the most important harpsichord and organ players in the world and a very well-known specialist in baroque music. Gustav Leonhardt -The Edition is a 15-CD retrospective containing a representative selection of his numerous recordings, including famous solo recordings such as the legendary Goldberg Variations and Bach's organ and harpsichord works. 6 CDs feature collaborations with his famous colleagues Sigiswald Kuijken, Frans Bruggen and Anner Bylsma, the Leonhardt-Consort and Harry van der Kamp.