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Handel: Solomon / Gardiner, Watkinson, Argenta, Hendricks

Release Date: 09/12/2006 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 000667002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Anthony Rolfe JohnsonCarolyn WatkinsonNancy ArgentaBarbara Hendricks,   ... 
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque SoloistsMonteverdi Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The libretto of Solomon, author unknown, is strange. Much of Act 1 is devoted to an epithalamium celebrating the wedding of Solomon and an Egyptian princess whom we do not meet again. (The Victorians used to bowdlerize some of the words.) Act 2, much the most dramatic, tells how Solomon solved the famous maternity suit (but how could the false mother agree to the baby's bisection?). Act 3 tells how Solomon stagemanaged and contributed to a short choral masque presented for the entertainment of the Queen of Sheba in return for presents of gold. According to Winton Dean the masque cries Out to be mimed, but even so there is less drama in Solomon than in some of the other oratorios and no overall plot. In 1749, the same soprano, the Italian Read more Frasi, sang both queens, but the parts are better split axon these discs. The soloists are excellent. Solomon is taken by a female mezzo (which is what Handel wanted) and Carolyn Watkinson sings with a lovely milky smoothness which contrasts well with the youthful bell-like tones of the Canadian, Nancy Argenta. The latter's coloratura is thrillingly precise. As Sheba's queen, Barbara Hendricks projects her music well, and the two harlots in the maternity dispute are excitingly vivid; Handel distinguishes between them with a born dramatist's skill. In the solo items I would only question the fast speed in the duet near the end which Handel marked Larghetto.

The useful booklet finds room for John Eliot Gardiner's views on what he calls "the most magnificent, certainly the most lavish of all Handel's oratorios". These qualities arise mainly from the unusually full orchestration in the numerous choruses which are of superb quality almost withOut exception. But Gardiner agrees with Winton Dean in thinking some of the solos "dead wood", and I myself applaud his decision to cut Sheha's first and Solomon's last arias in Act 3, as also two of Zadok's arias and the final chorus, even though there would be room for most of them on the third disc and tape. Gardiner ends effectively with that giant of a chorus, "Praise the Lord with heart and tongue". The short masque just before this allows for choruses in contrasted moods, notably the celestially sad "Draw the tear from hopeless love". Another lovely chorus which is not celebratory ends Act I, "May no rash intruder disturb their soft hours". But the bigger choruses are mostly for two choirs, and because Gardiner insists on an unusually wide spacing for them the stereo separation is unusually clear and adds much to the effect. The chorus sing with very exciting attack, and what with excellent orchestral playing on baroque-style instruments and the pleasingly imminent quality on both disc and tape, these records can be strongly recommended. Had I received them in time, they would certainly have appeared in my 1985 "Critics' Choice".

-- Gramophone [12/1985]
reviewing the original release of this recording, Philips 412612
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Works on This Recording

Solomon, HWV 67 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Anthony Rolfe Johnson (Tenor), Carolyn Watkinson (Alto), Nancy Argenta (Soprano),
Barbara Hendricks (Soprano), Joan Rodgers (Mezzo Soprano), Stephen Varcoe (Bass),
Della Jones (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Eliot Gardiner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Baroque Soloists,  Monteverdi Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
Date of Recording: 06/1984 
Venue:  London, England 
Length: 136 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: English 

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