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Handel: Il Parnasso In Festa / Matthew Halls, King's Consort

Handel / King's Consort / Halls
Release Date: 10/14/2008 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67701  
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Rebecca OutramPeter HarveyLucy CroweCarolyn Sampson,   ... 
Conductor:  Matthew Halls
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HANDEL Parnasso in festa Matthew Halls, cond; Carolyn Sampson ( Clio ); Lucy Crowe ( Orfeo ); Rebecca Outram ( Calliope ); Diana Moore ( Apollo/Euterpe ); Ruth Clegg ( Clori ); Peter Harvey ( Marte ); Ch of The King’s Consort; The King’s Consort Read more class="BULLET12b">• HYPERION 67701 (2 CDs: 131:51 Text and Translation)

In March 1734, the Daily Journal wrote about Parnasso in festa , “People have been waiting with impatience for this Piece, the celebrated Mr. Handel having exerted his unusual Skill in it.” They could have been describing me. I have been hoping for many years that some enterprising group would record this work, and finally we have a recording from The King’s Consort. The result was worth the wait.

Parnasso in festa is a serenade that Handel prepared to celebrate the wedding of his favorite pupil, Princess Anne, with Prince William of Orange. The plot concerns Apollo and the Muses celebrating the marriage of Thetis and Peleus, a very significant event in Greek mythology. Thetis and Peleus became the parents of Achilles, and it was at the marriage that the goddess of discord threw out the golden apple that led to the judgment of Paris and the Trojan War. Serenades, though rare in London, were common in Italy for performance at special occasions such as royal weddings. Handel adapted about two-thirds of the music from other works, mostly Athalia , which had not yet been heard in London, with a couple of pieces from Il trionfo del Tempo e della Verità , and a couple of additional pieces based on Radamisto and a trio sonata. Nine pieces in Parnasso were new. I was previously aware of the superb quality of some of this new music from its reuse in Terpsichore and the wedding cantata Sing unto God . The new music is delightful, and the music adapted from other sources sounds good in its new context. It is surprising, for example, that Athalia’s aria, “My vengeance awaits me,” could equally well serve a text praying that the Fates spare the life thread of the couple for a long life, but Handel makes it work.

Everyone with an interest in Handel’s music is indebted to The King’s Consort for its excellent recordings, especially of previously unrecorded oratorios. Any Handel recording by The King’s Consort bids fair to be a top choice (where there even is competition). This first recording of Parnasso in festa is no exception. Under its new artistic director, Matthew Halls, the chorus and orchestra continue to perform at the highest level. There were a few instances where I thought the chorus could have been more assertive, less reticent, in its performance, but this is a very minor blemish. Halls paces the work well; da capo ornaments are tasteful and appropriate.

The soloists are a very accomplished group. Apollo and Clio have the lion’s share of the music. Carolyn Sampson, as she has been on other recordings, is outstanding. Almost as good is Diana Moore. Her vibrato threatened to get out of control once or twice (especially in “Gran tonante” in part I), but otherwise she has things well in hand. With the exception of Rebecca Outram, who sings accurately but whose extremely white tone I do not find pleasing, the other soloists make a very positive contribution to this pioneer recording.

Despite its occasional bad press in the Handelian literature, Parnasso in festa is deserving of performance. All hail Hyperion for giving us a chance to hear it in a recording of such high quality.

FANFARE: Ron Salemi
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Works on This Recording

Il parnasso in festa, HWV 73 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Rebecca Outram (Soprano), Peter Harvey (Bass), Lucy Crowe (Soprano),
Carolyn Sampson (Soprano), Ruth Clegg (Alto), Diana Moore (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Matthew Halls
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 

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