Barthold Heinrich Brockes’ text for the passion oratorio, later named after him, is among the best-known Passion librettos of the early 18th century. This version is the first recording on CD of the work based on the copy made by J S Bach himself. It is distinguished from the better-known version by a different text for the opening chorus.
Peter Neumann strikes a powerful blow for some reassessment of Handel's version. He is assisted above all by Markus Brutscher's Evangelist which has urgency, cogency and clarity in equal measure. Markus Flaig's Jesus is also effective as is the relatively modest contribution by the Cologne Chamber Choir. (BBC Music Magazine)
This is the third English Oratorio by Handel, composed in 1733 for the graduation ceremony at Oxford. It is in 3 acts to a libretto by Samuel Humphreys after the stage drama Athalie by Jean Racine. Incidentally, this was Racine's last tragedy penned in 1691. This biblical account taken from Kings 2, centres on the theme of the triumph of God through the revenge performed by his followers on those who blaspheme and oppose him.
Written in the summer of 1749, Theodora was premiered in London at Covent Garden Theatre on 16 March 1750. This work, which Handel considered his finest oratorio, was a failure at first - Handel said bitterly that the hall was so empty that "there was room enough to dance there." Part of this failure could be explained by the earthquake that hit London in February of the same year and caused the upper classes to flee the city, but another possibility is that the subject matter of the oratorio - the rebellion of a woman against the power of the state - was a bit ahead of its time.
The story of the innocent Susanna–whose nude bathing in a stream so excited two elders in her community that they charged her with all sorts of dirty things–is from the Apocrypha. Near the story's close, the young Israelite Daniel, clearly a budding lawyer, disproves the elders' claims by having each explain certain details without the other in the room. (In the Carlisle Floyd version, there's a twist, and the ending is horrifyingly different.) The story, as Handel and his unknown librettist tell it, takes more than two and a half hours. What we get in place of nail-biting drama is a marvelous portrait of the chaste Susanna, her trusting husband, Joacim, and the lascivious elders. There's also a great concentration on the plot's rural setting. Arias are filled with nature–Handel offers us a lovely pastoral setting, with a could-be-tragic story at its core; but neither Nature nor Susanna's good nature wind up sullied. This is a beautiful performance of the work, led by Peter Neumann with tenderness and, when required, with great verve. Neumann makes only a few cuts, equaling about 10 minutes and approved by Handel for the work's 1759 revival.(Robert Levine)
According to Christopher Hogwood, in his marvelous biography of Handel, "In the winter of that year , Handel received what was for him an unusual commission. Although closely associated with the London theatre, he wrote very little incidental music for plays. A request from John Rich to provide airs and dances for Smollett's 'Alceste' was undertaken, according to Hawkins, in repayment of a debt to Rich."
Two things distinguished Thomas Hengelbrock's 1996 recording of Bach's B minor Mass from the many other historically informed performances of the work released in the early digital era. Where many other conductors used small mixed choirs, Hengelbrock not only used the 26-voice Bathasar-Neumann-Chor, he drew his soloists from it. And where most other conductors tended exclusively toward quick tempos, Hengelbrock mixed things up, favoring fast tempos in joyful movements and slow tempos for painful movements.
Mortensen's magnificent direction brings out the full measure of excitement, pathos and emotion in Handel's score…[the production] conveys an enormous amount of what makes Partenope very special.–Gramophone
Following several acclaimed albums of Handel’s operatic and choral masterpieces (including a triumphant Giulio Cesare with Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra and the oratorio La Resurrezione with British soprano Kate Royal), French harpsichordist and conductor Emmanuelle Haïm at last brings her fresh, expressive approach to Messiah. Joining her on a musically and spiritually uplifting journey for this long-awaited recording is Haïm’s own choir and period-instrument orchestra, Le Concert d’Astrée, with four of the UK’s finest Handelian singers. Having begun her career as a brilliant harpsichordist and protegee of Baroque pioneers William Christie and Christophe Rousset, Haïm has a long history with Messiah.