This performance replaces the John Eliot Gardiner as my new No. 1 Acis. It’s easy to understand why this brief work was the composer’s most popular during his lifetime: the quick, charming, and eventually touching libretto (probably by John Gay and Alexander Pope, no less) is more than supported by Handel’s crisp, memorable tunes that even at their most sentimental are never maudlin, and at their jolliest are truly toe-tapping.
The Italian opera at the Haymarket had closed and Handel was happy to receive a commission from the Earl of Carnarvon (later Duke of Chandos) to present a “pastoral entertainment” at his country estate. Merrily devoid of superfluous shepherds and nymphs, itRead more tells its bizarre tale of woe with five singers (and an extra soprano for the choruses in this recording).
Christian Curnyn leads with zip and sharp, woody attacks (very few metal strings are used), and there is a spring in the quick movements. “Oh ruddier than the cherry” never has sounded so passive-aggressively witty, recorder obbligato and all–and Neal Davies, once the joking is over, is a dark, cruel Polyphemus as well. Tenor Allan Clayton is the least drippy Acis on disc, and in “Love in her eyes sits playing” sounds utterly enthralled with the love of his Galatea. And who wouldn’t, in Lucy Crowe’s performance, with a cooing “As when the dove”, and a heart-breaking “Heart the seat of soft delight”. Coridon’s “Would you gain the tender creature” never has sounded better than it does here sung by Jeremy Budd. Benjamin Hulett makes a fine, mellifluous Damon.
If you’re uncertain, just listen to the opening three-minute Sinfonia: jolly, with cleanly articulated, rhythmically apt strings and the oboes and recorders toodling along, with its dark coda a masterful 15-second scene change. And the flawless diction of the opening chorus is just a taste of what’s to come. Sound is wonderfully warm and realistic. Buy this.
Acis and Galatea, HWV 49by George Frideric Handel Performer:
Neal Davies (Bass),
Allan Clayton (Tenor),
Jeremy Budd (Tenor),
Lucy Crowe (Soprano),
Benjamin Hulett (Tenor)
Early Opera Company
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A fortunate collaboration in a great Country HouseJune 3, 2018By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"Early in the 18th century a group of writers came together in one of London's newly-popular coffee-houses, and began a long satirical collaboration that would eventually result in interesting products in the literary, political and, as we shall see, the musical fields. The members of the Scriblerus Club, who included such big names as Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and John Gay, pitched ideas and jokes to each other like a roomful of sitcom writers, with their creation Martinus Scriblerus an early version of Alan Brady or Tracy Jordan. As I learned from a fascinating episode of BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, the death of Queen Anne in 1814 and the fall from power of the Tory Ministers in 1815 scattered the Scriblerus Club members. But they would soon be back. Meanwhile, Georg Frederic Handel's fortunes as a composer showed peaks and valleys after he settled permanently in Britain in 1712, though always trending more or less up. In 1710 he had been named Kappelmeister to the Elector of Hanover, who became King George I on the death of Queen Anne. A falling-out with the new Sovereign was bad, but things looked much better when he became the fashionable operatic composer in London. Even better, in 1717 his Water Music for George I's barge was a big hit, but fashions turn quickly, and he all at once found himself without a hit in London's operatic world. So he turned from the fickleness of both city and court to a lavish country house that included its own orchestra and singers: James Brydges' (later Duke of Chandos') Cannons, built at a cost of £200,000, worth tens of millions today. There Handel fell in with a group of Scriblerians, themselves looking for a more congenial home after their political/artistic exiles. The librettists were John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Hughes; the subject was one that Handel had used for an earlier Neapolitan opera, Acis and Galatea, from the story told in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Everything now had an English slant; the project was more like an English masque than an Italian opera. The songs - to very cleverly crafted English words - were sung by English singers. And the Englishness continues to this recording, recorded, by mainly British musicians, I'm sure, at the Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb in November of 2017. And all for Chaconne, the Early Music marque of Chandos, the label named for the Duke who built Cannons and help bring about some of Handel's greatest music. Acis and Galatea was apparently Handel's most popular work during his lifetime. The clever libretto must surely have played a part here, though Handel's tunes are often sublime, his rhythms infectious, his sad arias heart-breaking and his happy ones uplifting. The opera has most effective advocates here: the two leads, soprano Lucy Crowe as Galatea, and tenor Allan Clayton as Acis, are outstanding, as is the choir. The musicians of the Early Opera Company, led by Christian Curnyn, have a special quality about their playing that one might almost call rustic. It looks back to the masques of Henry Purcell, and ahead to a future collaboration of John Gay with another German composer who settled in England, Johann Christoph Pepusch, The Beggar's Opera from 1728. I had a great deal of fun researching this review - it's what retired librarians do - but even more listening to this music!"Report Abuse