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Handel: Israel In Egypt / Mallon, Albino, Brown, Modolo


Release Date: 05/27/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570966   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Nils BrownPeter MahonSean WatsonJennifer Enns Modolo,   ... 
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HANDEL Israel in Egypt Kevin Mallon, cond; Laura Albino (sop); Eve Rachel McLeod (sop); Jennie Such (sop); Jennifer Enns Modolo (mez); Peter Mahon (ct); Nils Brown (ten); Bud Roach (ten); Jason Nedecky (bar); Sean Watson (bar); Aradia Ens (period instruments) NAXOS 8.570966 (2 CDs: 119:19)


Israel in Egypt presents the unique case of a Handel oratorio that was composed in reverse order. There have been two schools of thought on the reason for this back-to-front Read more timetable. One group thinks Handel started out to compose an ode called Moses’s Song that he could use to fill out the program of shorter works such as Alexander’s Feast , but then conceived the idea of creating a full three-part oratorio, for which someone put together verses from Exodus and the Psalms for part II. Handel used his recent funeral anthem for Queen Caroline, The Ways of Zion Do Mourn , as part I. The other school makes the funeral anthem the starting point for the oratorio. Those who advocate this theory believe that Handel started working on part III because the verses for part II were not yet ready when he began composition.


Israel in Egypt was not a success with the London public. Paradoxically, in modern times Israel in Egypt has been one of the more popular of Handel’s oratorios. Until recently, it was performed in a truncated form. Part I was dropped, and only parts II and III, preceded by an overture borrowed from one of the other oratorios, were performed. Fortunately, the early-music revival has remedied this situation, and most recordings in the past 20 years have been of the complete work.


The main reason part I was usually dropped in the past is that, despite the beauty of the music, 45 minutes of predominately slow choruses, in a work which is already extremely chorus-heavy, can tend to become tiresome. Mallon’s solution to this problem is to speed the tempos up slightly so that part I becomes more a celebration of Joseph than a lament over his death. This approach works very well. Nothing is taken at so quick a tempo as to seem particularly inappropriate, and the same can be said of Mallon’s conducting of the entire work, although he pushes things a bit in a couple of places, particularly “I will sing unto the Lord” and “The people shall fear” in part III.


Mallon divides the solo music among nine singers, four of whom are members of the chorus. This seems a strange decision considering the small amount of solo music in the work, but all nine singers are quite excellent. They easily equal the best of their competitors in other recordings of this work. The Aradia Ensemble is apparently the collective name of both the orchestra and chorus. The mixed chorus of 28 voices is large enough to do justice to the more-assertive choruses while not overwhelming those that call for a less-powerful delivery. The 27-member orchestra is excellent.


Mallon is credited with the performing edition used in this recording. It contains small changes from what we are used to hearing, about which the CD booklet is silent. The changes themselves are not of any consequence, more annoying than anything else.


The recording was made in St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto. The engineers have done an excellent job of assuring that vocal lines are not obscured by reverberation. The sound is generally excellent, although occasionally there are imbalances in the recording in which one instrument will leap into sudden prominence for a short time. As is usual practice with Naxos, the libretto is available for download at its Web site.


My copy of this recording had a defect in track 2 of disc 1. Communication with Naxos led to the discovery that there was a defective batch of discs. I had not received a replacement disc by the deadline for this issue, and Naxos did not say if it is instituting a recall of the defective discs. Buyers should be aware that they may have to exchange the recording.


There are 11 competing versions of Israel in Egypt currently available. Of recordings of the entire work on period instruments, most critics seem to agreed that Parrott on EMI is the best, and it is indeed a good one. I would place this recording from Naxos on at least a level with Parrott, and perhaps give it preference because of its less funereal part I and more forceful presentation of parts II and III.

FANFARE: Ron Salemi


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Works on This Recording

1.
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Nils Brown (Tenor), Peter Mahon (Countertenor), Sean Watson (Baritone),
Jennifer Enns Modolo (Mezzo Soprano), Eve Rachel McLeod (Soprano), Jennie Such (Soprano),
Laura Albino (Soprano), Bud Roach (Tenor), Jason Nedecky (Baritone)
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1739; London, England 
Length: 119 Minutes 19 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Symphony
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: The sons of Israel do mourn (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: How is the mighty fall'n I (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: He put on righteousness (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: Quartet: When the ear heard him (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: Duet: He deliver'd the poor that cried (2 Sopranos, Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: Quartet: The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: Their bodies are buried in peace (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: The people will tell of their wisdom (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: Quartet: They shall receive a glorious kingdom (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part I, The Lamentation of the Israelites for the death of Joseph: The merciful goodness of the Lord endureth forever (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: And the children of Israel sighed (Alto, Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: They loathed to drink of the river (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: Air: Their land brought forth frogs (Alto)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: He spake the word (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: He gave them hailstones for rain (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: He sent a thick darkness over all the land (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: He smote all the first-born of Egypt (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: But as far his people, he led them forth like sheep (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: Egypt was glad when they departed (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: He led them through the deep (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: But the waters overwhelmed their enemies (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part II, The Exodus: And believed the Lord and His servant Moses (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: I will sing unto the Lord (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Duet: The Lord is my strength and my song (2 Sopranos)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: And I will exalt Him (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Duet: The Lord is a man of war (2 Basses)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: The depths have covered them (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Thy right hand, O Lord is become glorious (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Thou sentest forth thy wrath (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: And with the blast of thy nostrils (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: The enemy said, I will pursue (Tenor)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Thou didst blow with the wind (Soprano)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: The earth swallowed them (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Duet: Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth thy people (Alto, Tenor)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: The people shall hear, and be afraid (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Air: Thou shalt bring them in (Alto)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: The Lord shall reign for ever and ever I (Chorus) - Recitative: For the horse of Pharaoh went in (Tenor) - The Lord shall reign for ever and ever II (Chorus)
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Part III, Moses Song: Recitative: And Miriam the prophetess (Tenor) - Sing ye to the Lord (Soprano, Chorus)

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