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Handel: Music For Royal Occasions / King, King's Consort

Release Date: 11/15/1993 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 66315   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Gillian FisherCrispian Steele-PerkinsJames BowmanMichael George,   ... 
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's ConsortOxford New College Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One might think that with all of the attention that Handel’s music has received over the years and especially since the tercentenary of his birth in 1985, that no stone has been left unturned in the effort to accord the composer his due. Indeed, there have been revelatory and monumental cycles of his operas and oratorios—especially Messiah—as well as numerous releases of Music for the Royal Fireworks, Water Music, the Concerti grossi, ops. 3 and 6—the list goes on and on, almost ad nauseam. As with any composer, though, there are darker recesses in Handel’s œuvre that seemed to have attracted the interest of a multitude of dust bunnies, but few performers. This Hyperion recording, originally recorded in 1988 and released under the title Read more Music for Royal Occasions, holds three such works specifically composed for English courtly festivities of various import between 1713 and 1736.

Handel returned to Germany from England in 1711, and was asked to quill a Te Deum and Jubilate to commemorate the Treaty of Utrecht (1712) and an ode for the Queen’s birthday (1713). There is no record of a prima of the Birthday Ode, but it was intended for use on February 6, 1713. There is much variety within its nine movements and half-hour run, but the most breathtaking is the opening movement, “Eternal Source of Light Divine,” an exquisite Andante, sung here by counter-tenor James Bowman against a background of sustained string passages and gentle trumpet obbligato played by Crispian Steele-Perkins, whose eloquent execution of the trumpet part had a lasting effect upon this auditor. The Te Deum included on this release (a separate entity from the so-called “Utrecht” Te Deum) wasn’t performed until 1714, when the former Elector of Hanover, now George I, had assumed the English throne. In 1736, Handel was firmly established on the English musical scene via numerous successes and was tapped for more music of festal pomp and splendor, this time for the wedding of the Prince of Wales. Handel knew his Bible, as the text for this work illustrates, for he chose appropriate material contained in Psalms 68, 106, and 128. Again—as in the Birthday Ode—we find Handel at his regal best with trumpets and timpani, but again offering us a variety of moods.

In the years since the release of this disc, Robert King and his performers have become one of the most respected ensembles involved in period-instrument performance. Of course, that’s not meant to dismiss their early efforts as anything less than exceptional, for here scrupulous scholarship is ideally combined with common sense to produce recordings that evince a cri de cœur. The exceptional tonal beauty and spontaneity plead the case of this repertoire quite well, as do the poise, style, agility, and verve displayed not only by the soloists, but also by the Choir of New College, Oxford. In sum, one cannot help but appreciate Robert King’s excellent feel for the music and certainly we must envy his ability and that of his colleagues to communicate this to us. None of these works will ever rival the cornerstones of Handel’s catalog and the keystones of the 18th-century choral repertoire, but these enthusiastic and sparkling readings do make one sit bolt upright and wonder why so few have ventured here before.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, this release has been around for over a decade and a half and so far has justifiably survived Hyperion’s ongoing purge of its catalog for mid-price reissues under its Helios imprimatur. If it does eventually fall by the wayside, I would suspect that it will not be absent long before it reappears in a less expensive incarnation. So strike while the iron is hot!

Michael Carter, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Gillian Fisher (Soprano), Crispian Steele-Perkins (Trumpet), James Bowman (Countertenor),
Michael George (Bass)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort,  Oxford New College Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1713; London, England 
Date of Recording: 05/1988 
Venue:  All Hallow's Church, Gospel Oak, London 
Length: 26 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Language: English 
Sing unto God, HWV 263 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  James Bowman (Countertenor), Gillian Fisher (Soprano), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor),
Michael George (Bass), Jane Coe (Cello)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort,  Oxford New College Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1736; London, England 
Date of Recording: 05/1988 
Venue:  All Hallow's Church, Gospel Oak, London 
Length: 16 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Language: English 
Te Deum, HWV 280 "Queen Caroline" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Michael George (Bass), Neil McLaren (Flute), James Bowman (Countertenor),
John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort,  Oxford New College Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1714; London, England 
Date of Recording: 05/1988 
Venue:  All Hallow's Church, Gospel Oak, London 
Length: 11 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Language: English 

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