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Handel: Joshua / Neumann, Gilchrist, Wolff, Poplutz

Handel / Collegium Cartusianum / Neumann
Release Date: 09/16/2008 
Label:  Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog #: 3321532  
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Georg PoplutzAlex PotterMyung-Hee HyunJames Gilchrist,   ... 
Conductor:  Peter Neumann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Chamber ChoirCollegium Cartusianum Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HANDEL Joshua Peter Neumann, cond; Myung-Hee Hyun ( Achsah ); Alex Potter ( Othniel ); James Gilchrist ( Joshua ); Georg Poplutz ( Angel ); Konstantin Wolff ( Caleb ); Cologne CCh; Collegium Cartusianum (period instruments) MDG 332 1532 (2 CDs: 122:40 Read more Text and Translation)

Joshua is not one of Handel’s great oratorios. Although it is patterned on the previous year’s Judas Maccabaeus with a perfunctory love story tacked on, Morrell’s mediocre libretto did not inspire Handel to the heights of their earlier collaboration. But there are some very good things in Joshua , and second-rate Handel is better than music from some composers’ top drawer, so Joshua is worthy of the occasional performance and recording.

My only previous encounter with Peter Neumann’s Handel is his excellent Athalia , which I consider the preferred recording of that work. His work here is on the same high level. He paces the work well, giving scrupulous attention to Handel’s tempo markings. In the few da capo arias, ornaments are tasteful and appropriate. Orchestra and chorus perform at a very high level, and one is almost unaware that English is not the choristers’ native tongue.

As with other period-instrument recordings that have come my way in recent months, I am puzzled by the use of continuo keyboards. The organ is sometimes used in place of the harpsichord in recitatives and arias. Neumann even goes further, sometimes using organ, harpsichord, and lute together, contrary to correct historical practice.

The soloists are a very accomplished group. James Gilchrist, one of only two native English soloists, is excellent as Joshua. He is very responsive to the words he is singing, projecting what drama there is in his role when he is given the opportunity. Despite the fact that most of the other soloists are German-born, they sing the English words with practically no hint of an accent. Myung-Hee Hyun was born in Korea, but has studied in Germany. Her diction is also excellent, as of course is that of Alex Potter, the other native English singer. None of these singers need yield anything to the soloists on Robert King’s recording on Hyperion, the main competition to this recording.

There are two additional recordings of Joshua in the current catalog. I have not heard the recording conducted by Budday on K & K, but it received a negative evaluation in Fanfare 31:5. The recording conducted by Palmer on Newport has its attractions, but is outclassed by slightly better competition. Anyone looking to add Joshua to his collection could not go wrong with either King or Neumann.

FANFARE: Ron Salemi
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Works on This Recording

Joshua, HWV 64 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Georg Poplutz (Tenor), Alex Potter (Countertenor), Myung-Hee Hyun (Soprano),
James Gilchrist (Tenor), Konstantin Wolff (Baritone)
Conductor:  Peter Neumann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Chamber Choir,  Collegium Cartusianum Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1748; London, England 

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