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.
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.
This EMI recording is the third Messiah that Cleobury and the King's College Choir have done, made during the 2009 Easter at King's season of concerts. As a fan of King's I find this an extremely satisfying recording of the work, and Cleobury and the King's Choir are in fine form as they have always been.
This 3CD set of George Frederic Handel's (1685-1759) "Belshazzar", from Archiv Production, a division of Universal Music, is proof again that transfer from vinyl to tape to disc brings with it improvements in listening that make the purchase a worthwhile addition to anyone's listening library. Written in 1744, "Belshazzar" is an oratorio in the operatic style that is wonderful oratorio, but lacking the true depth one expects to hear in an opera. London opera audiences of Handel's day agreed, as both "Belshazzar" and Handel's other offering of the period in the same style, "Hercules", were not terribly successful. Instead of the scheduled 24 performances only 16 were given and Handel never offered a full season of oratorio again. The Libretto by Charles Jennens (1700-1773) is, as the production notes say, meant "not only to show the fall of Babylon but to show it as a fulfillment of divine prediction and to confirm the biblical testimony by reference to classical history."
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)