Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 103 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
HANDEL Dettingen Te Deum.1 Esther: Overture. Israel in Egypt: The Lord Shall Reign … Sing Ye to theRead more Lord.2 O Sing unto the Lord. Saul: Overture: Allegro; Dead March. Utrecht Jubilate: Glory Be to the Father … As It Was in the Beginning. The Ways of Zion do Mourn: When the Ear Heard Her; She Deliver’d the Poor That Cried; Their Bodies Are Buried in Peace. Zadok the Priest • Howard Arman, cond; Ulrike Fulde (sop);2 Albrecht Sack (ten);2 Felix Plock (bs);1 MDR Rundfunkchor; Hellenser Madrigalisten; Händelfestspielchor; Halle Op Ch; English Concert (period instruments); Halle Handel Fest O (period instruments) • MEDICI ARTS 2057458 (DVD: 103:00) Live: Halle 4/19/2009
Between May 26 and June 5, 1784, five concerts of Handel’s music were given in Westminster Abbey in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of his death (and supposedly the 100th of his birth, but the organizers were off by one year). The tendency to perform Handel’s works with larger and larger groups of performers was already evident by this time. The orchestra consisted of 251 players, and the chorus numbered 275. In 2009, the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death generated many tributes in the form of concerts and new and rereleased recordings. This DVD preserves one such concert, which duplicates the program of the May 26, 1784, commemorative concert. The performance took place in the Marktkirche, Halle, thus linking, as the notes point out, the beginning and end of Handel’s life, the place where he was baptized and the place where he is buried.
The organizers of the Halle concert decided to re-create proportionately the number of participants in the Westminster Abbey commemoration, taking into account the smaller size of the Halle church. They employ 200 musicians (claimed to be one-third of the 1784 forces, but actually closer to two-fifths), combining two period-instrument groups and four choirs. The instrumentalists and singers are not listed individually, so I am unable to determine how literally (if at all) the proportions of the present group correspond to the 1784 performers. Charles Burney, in his account of the 1784 commemoration, relates the difficulty of finding trombone players for the concert, but Handel had occasionally employed the trombone in his oratorios, including the portion of Israel in Egypt and Saul performed here. The notes, curiously, state that the conductor wrote the trombone parts used in this performance, but I was not able to determine where, aside from Israel and Saul, trombones were used. In addition, the notes incorrectly state that there are four Chandos anthems; there are, in fact, 11.
The performances are very good. Howard Arman never rushes the tempos; the combined groups don’t sound bloated or unwieldy. This performance proves that we can perform Handel’s works with forces greater than were generally available to him while still maintaining the sound that we have come to expect in period-instrument performances. In fact, it is perhaps the large forces involved that keep the conductor from attempting to rush things; if such is the case, I would prescribe groups of this size as a cure to all speed demons of the baton. Israel in Egypt especially benefits from a larger group than is currently used to record it these days.
The four choruses blend seamlessly; their diction is excellent, even though some are singing in a language other than their native tongue. Subtitles in English, German, and French are available for those who need them. The orchestral execution is on the highest level, as we would expect from two such accomplished period-instrument groups. Only one soloist, bass Felix Plock, is brought in for the bass solos in the Dettingen Te Deum. The solos in the selection from Israel in Egypt are performed by two members of the choir. All other solos are sung by the choir. As was done at the original commemoration, only the first movement of the Overture to Saul is performed.
I must admit that I see little reason for a DVD such as this. In opera or ballet, where there is a visual element to enhance the performance, a film of the event adds an extra dimension to our enjoyment. But how many times do we need to see the conductor waving his hands, the singers singing, the players playing? It is one thing to experience such an event live, quite another to view it on screen. We can see the enjoyment of the musicians (and why not, since they are performing works of the greatest composer who ever lived?) and most of the audience (aside from the occasional dour German), but is that enough? For me, a CD would be more than sufficient. But there obviously is a market for this type of production. For those who enjoy taped concerts, this “Handel Commemoration” is one worth purchasing.
Israel in Egypt, HWV 54: Excerpt(s)by George Frideric Handel Conductor:
Halle Handel Festival Orchestra
Period: Baroque Written: by 1739; London, England
Work(s)by George Frideric Handel Performer:
Felix Plock (Bass),
Ulrike Fulde (Soprano),
Albrecht Sack (Tenor)
Halle Handel Festival Orchestra,
Halle Handel Festival Chorus
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Big, Loud and Great!March 30, 2014By Jeremy D. (Fresno, CA)See All My Reviews"This is my second or third favorite concert on video in my possession. The number of performers involved reminds me of a Mahler performance which, to me, is a good thing. There is a large group of strings along with about eight double reeds(hautbois and bassoons), about twelve brass(natural trumpets and horns, and sackbutts) and a chamber organ hidden somewhere out of sight. A limited range of camera movement makes counting difficult. The pronunciation of the german choir(singing in English) is amusing at times but is very clear and I think the soloists pulled from it were very good. None of that bloated diva-ish singing present that you might get from big names. The sound is very good and I think can only be appreciated on a sufficiently large sound system(cranked up!). The quoted review above claims that the works selected are not uncommon and though that is probably correct you will not find a recording with such forces and of such quality."Report Abuse