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CD Review

George Frideric Handel

  • "Saul" - Oratorio in three acts
  • Alexander's Feast - Ode in honour of St. Cecilia
  • Ode for St. Cecilia's Day
  • "Utrecht" Te Deum
  • Giulio Cesare - highlights
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone (Saul)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor (Jonathan)
Paul Esswood, countertenor (David)
Julia Varady, soprano (Merab)
Elisabeth Gale, soprano (Michal)
Helmuth Wildhaber, bass (Witch of Endor)
Matthias Holle, bass (Apparition of Samuel)
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsoperchor
Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Warner Classics Handel Edition 2564-69567-7 6CDs 392m ADD/DDD
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This is the sixth set in this comprehensive and excellent Handel edition from Warner. With well over 30 CDs already issued, we are promised a further four volumes so the total number of works presented could well prove to be a record. This volume deals with an important oratorio in the shape of "Saul" as well as the "Utrecht Te Deum" and the famous "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" and "Alexander's Feast", another splendid cantata.

The recordings date from the early 1970's to 1990 and come from the prolific Teldec stable under the indefatigable Nikolaus Harnoncourt who conducts in his exemplary no nonsense fashion. "Saul' is a fine interpretation although I still feel that John Eliot Gardiner comes to the core of the work better. "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day' is also given a pomp and circumstance treatment whilst the Utrecht Te Deum is winningly done. The team of soloists is also very good and the recordings are fine and well balanced in proper Teldec tradition.

There are also some rarities thrown in for good measure such as the excerpts from "Giulio Cesare" and the ubiquitous cantata, "Apollo e Dafne", both which receive splendidly invigorating performances. Full texts and translations of the works are available online and the booklet is well presented with some interesting photographs. Those who are new to Handel could do far worse than collect this exemplary edition.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech