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Gemini - Handel: Solomon, Love In Bath / Beecham, Et Al

Release Date: 05/24/2005 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 86516   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Lois MarshallAlexander YoungElsie MorisonJohn [baritone (50s)] Cameron,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic OrchestraBeecham Choral Society
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 31 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is the kind of recording that instantly raises the hackles of that formidable vigilante squad, the self-proclaimed Defenders of Baroque Authenticity. Beecham’s edition of Solomon shamelessly cuts away a good deal of the piece, reassigns the countertenor part to a baritone, re-orchestrates and revises the work. Of course, he was doing all this at a time when original Baroque instruments were largely in private collections, the public’s appreciation of rambling plots and lengthy, unknown oratorios was questionable, and countertenors were as rare as cherry trees in suburban subdivisions named after them. It might even be said that by presenting a work filled with some of the most exquisite love music ever written, Beecham was flouting the Read more expectations of an audience used to regarding Handel as an Anglican pastor rather than a great dramatist. No matter. What might have been defensible in the 1950s should be tacitly ignored, today. Or so we are told, by people whose conviction and zeal speak well for the vitality of religious belief in the 21st century.

There’s no question that—however one defines Baroque performance practice, and there are numerous, contradictory though current definitions—Beecham’s Handel recordings are dated. But to my mind this doesn’t invalidate Solomon as great listening, or as a hybrid composition of considerable worth. Let’s call it Handel-Beecham, to stop the protests; it has, in any case, a broader, richer emotional canvas and a surer sense of theater than quite a few Handel opera and oratorio productions I’ve seen on stage or heard on CD in recent years. Not all, surely. A sense of moderation seems to be settling into some quarters, among them at least a few music schools and university departments, with febrile tempos giving way to a less eternally nervy approach. The results are more conducive to expressing less forceful emotions such as contentment, rapt tenderness, and melancholy; and it may not be too far fetched to credit Beecham in some measure for this re-evaluation. Certainly, those Handel recordings of his remain, and Solomon, with its warmth and intimacy, is an example of great performance for all that it falls short by contemporary research standards. The Royal Philharmonic is an excellent instrument upon which Beecham plays with his customary assuredness, and Alexander Young supplies elaborate, effective coloratura at a time when such a grace was never expected of tenors. All four soloists are attractively steeped in the British oratorio tradition, which favors clarity and tone over emotional indulgence.

Love in Bath will prove less controversial, if only because it is a Beecham ballet built of selections from various Handel works. Many such ballets drawing upon the obscure music of earlier composers have appeared, notably during the first half of the 20th century. This one, to my mind, is among the finest. It demonstrates what a fine Handel scholar Beecham was, taking arias and movements from a host of once unknown operas and orchestral pieces; and it reveals his sure hand with structure, his wit, and his refined taste. It is perhaps the largest and best lollipop, to use Beecham’s own expression, that he ever gave us all.

The sound is a bit shrill and lacking in fullness in Solomon. I recommend a slight cut to the treble. With good if brief notes, this release is highly recommended.

Barry Brenesal, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Solomon, HWV 67 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Lois Marshall (Soprano), Alexander Young (Tenor), Elsie Morison (Soprano),
John [baritone (50s)] Cameron (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Beecham Choral Society
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio 1, London, England 
Length: 103 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Thomas Beecham.
EMI Abbey Road Studio 1, London, England (11/1955 - 05/1956) 
Love in Bath by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Ilse Hollweg (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Thomas Beecham
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Length: 47 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: Arranger: Sir Thomas Beecham.
EMI Abbey Road Studio 1, London, England (11/1956 - 12/1956); EMI Abbey Road Studio 1, London, England (03/1957 - 04/1957); EMI Abbey Road Studio 1, London, England (08/1959 - 11/1959) 

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