This Decca Classics release is the first ever complete recording of Arminio, with only one previous incomplete performance available. Described by one contemporary commentator as a miracle, and another as in every respect excellent & vastly pleasing, Arminio is ripe for reappraisal and new presentation.
From bar one, I felt an assurance and naturalness about the rhythms, a clarity and tonal richness in the orchestral and vocal texture, a stylishness of phrasing and embellishment, and a sheer zest and power of dramatic presentation that add up to a totally convincing and gripping whole. […] Neumann and his team have excelled themselves, and so has Handel, and anyone who thinks 18th-century music wanting in musico-dramatic force is urged to acquire this magnificent set without delay.
…Against the competition, this new German recording rates very high. It is certainly superior to Harnoncourt's heavily cut and somewhat mannered Teldec reissue.
There are two English Davises, both conductors: Colin and Andrew–no relation. Colin recorded a landmark Messiah which is still available on Philips at budget price. This one is another matter entirely. Andrew Davis certainly knows this music, and he hits the big moments with gusto. But Messiah is more than big moments, and despite an excellent cast of soloists, there's too little involvement with the music (especially from Kathleen Battle) in the arias and more intimate moments to make this a clear recommendation. It's not bad, but the competition is just that much better. –David Hurwitz
Saul is among Handel’s most dramatic oratorios. As in almost no other Handel oratorio, the exciting drama of this work shows how close it was to the opera of that time. Through the use of harp and glockenspiel in the orchestra he impressively portrays the history of Saul and David with the sounds of ancient Israel.
In his setting of Orlando (drawn from Tasso s Orlando furioso) Handel offers us a score of remarkable dramatic power, diversity and originality. Orlando s mad scene and his slumber aria are among the composer s most striking creations. Everything in the opera arouses admiration: the extremely varied scoring, the exuberant vocal writing, the rhythmic invention, and the supple melodies. Includes an essay on opera seria, or not so seria, by Baroque pioneer Jean-Claude Malgoire, himself.
The emotional content, lyricism and direct appeal of Gavin Bryars’s music are unique, reflecting a contemporary composer’s absorption and transformation of several centuries of musical craftsmanship in order to reflect his, and our, own epoch. Originally written for harpsichord, After Handel’s Vesper is a strong illustration of Bryars’s post-minimal interests in early music repertoire. Ramble on Cortona, derived from 13th-century music, makes expressive use of the piano’s resonant qualities, while in the highly-coloured, almost impressionistic The Solway Canal, landscapes pass by as if in a dream.
Steven Isserlis and Richard Egarr here assemble all the viola da gamba sonatas written by three composers born in the propitious year of 1685: one each by Handel and Domenico Scarlatti, and three by JS Bach. Isserlis plays them on the gamba’s modern cousin, the cello, and the microphone loves his playing, picking up all the nuances and scampering asides from his soft-spoken instrument which can sometimes get lost in big concert halls. Egarr on harpsichord matches Isserlis’s eloquence and rambunctious energy all the way. The dreamy, airy slow movement of Bach’s Sonata in G minor brings telling use of vibrato as Isserlis circles around Egarr, his playing at once idiomatic and soulful. An extra cellist reinforces the bass line in the Handel and Scarlatti, in which the composers give the harpsichordist only a framework; Egarr’s imaginative realisations ensure that even when Scarlatti is at his most repetitive, he is never dull.