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Handel: Joshua / Cummings, London Handel Orchestra


Release Date: 11/10/2009 
Label:  Somm   Catalog #: 240   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Alexandra GibsonGeorge HumphreysRichard RowntreeAllan Clayton
Conductor:  Laurence Cummings
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Handel OrchestraLondon Handel Singers
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HANDEL Joshua (1748 Version) Laurence Cummings, cond; Catherine Manley ( Achsah ); Alexandra Gibson ( Othniel ); Allan Clayton ( Joshua ); Richard Rowntree ( Angel ); George Humphreys ( Caleb ); London Handel Singers; London Handel O (period instruments) Read more class="BULLET12b">• SOMM 240 (2 CDs: 118:36 Text and Translation) Live: London 3/13/2008


The performance preserved on this recording is built around half an aria. When Handel revived Joshua for the first time in 1752, he rewrote the B section of Achsah’s act I aria “Hark! ’tis the linnet and the thrush.” All other recordings have used the revised version as printed in Chrysander’s score (with inaccuracies, according to this recording’s notes). In all other respects, the score is the same as that used in other recordings.


Laurence Cummings leads a very good performance. He sets reasonable tempos and is alive to what dramatic life Handel was able to infuse into the rather static libretto. Among the best recordings of Joshua , Cummings is the only conductor who correctly observes the details of historical performance practice. Both Robert King (Hyperion) and Peter Neumann (MDG) frequently (and incorrectly) use organ (usually accompanied by theorbo or lute) in place of the harpsichord in recitatives and arias. Cummings does not even use a theorbo or lute, and we have no evidence that Handel used such an instrument in his performances after 1739.


Cummings uses a rather small orchestra by Handelian standards. Strings are 4/4/2/2/1, and the orchestra can occasionally sound a little thin, for example in the march near the beginning of act II. But for the most part the orchestra sounds full enough; King (7/6/3/3/2) and Neumann (6/5/3/2/2) with their larger groups never sound underpowered. Because this is a live performance, there is the very occasional small lack of precision in ensemble, but this is not really a problem. The occasional stage noise is the only other hint that this is a live production; the audience is extremely quiet, except for the applause at the end of each act.


The London Handel Singers are also the smallest of the choral groups in the major recordings, with a mixed ensemble of 18 singers. King’s all-male chorus numbers 30, while Neumann uses a mixed chorus of 28. All three groups are excellent.


Cummings has assembled an outstanding set of soloists. All cope well with the florid music they are given to sing. Allan Clayton, though not quite as elegant as John Mark Ainsley for King, is a forceful Joshua; James Gilchrist for Neumann is also outstanding. Catherine Manley as Achsah is sweet and supple of voice, as are her competitors, Emma Kirkby for King and Myung-Hee Hyun for Neumann. Handel wrote the role of Othniel for a female contralto, and Cummings is the only one of the three conductors to cast a female in the role. Alexandra Gibson begins a bit tentatively, but she soon settles down to provide a good performance. I prefer her singing to that of James Bowman for King. Alex Potter for Neumann is also good, but I confess to a preference for natural voices. George Humphreys is the best of the three basses; though all are good, Michael George for King is somewhat wooly-voiced, while Konstantin Wolff for Neumann is not quite as smooth in coloratura as the other two. The small tenor role of the Angel is given to a boy treble in King’s recording.


Do you need to rush out and buy this recording? If you already have King or Neumann, the answer is probably not (unless, like me, you are a Handel completist who simply must have every note Handel wrote). But if you are looking for your first recording of Joshua , or you can afford multiple recordings, this Joshua is the recording to buy. By a small margin, it has become my preferred recording.


FANFARE: Ron Salemi
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Works on This Recording

1.
Joshua, HWV 64 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Alexandra Gibson (Alto), George Humphreys (Baritone), Richard Rowntree (Tenor),
Allan Clayton (Tenor)
Conductor:  Laurence Cummings
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Handel Orchestra,  London Handel Singers
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1748; London, England 

Sound Samples

Joshua, HWV 64: Introduction
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Ye Sons of Israel, ev'ry tribe attend (Chorus of Israelites)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: Behold, my friends, what vast rewards are giv'n (Joshua, Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Aria: O first in wisdom, what vast rewards are giv'n (Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: Matrons and virgins. with unwearied pray'r (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Aria: Oh! Who can tell, oh! Who can hear (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: Caleb, attend to all I now prescribe (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: To long to posterity we were record (Chorus, Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: How long shall the memory last (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Aria: While Kedron's brook to Jordan's stream (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: But, who is he? - tremendous to behold! (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Aria: Awful, pleasing being say (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: Joshua, I come commission'd from on high (Angel, Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: Leader of Israel (Angel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: To give command, prerogative is thine (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Aria: Haste, haste Israel (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: The Lord commands, and Joshua leads (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: In these blest scenes (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: 'Tis Achsah's voice! (Othniel, Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: Hail, lovely virgin of this blissful bow'r! (Othniel, Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Aria: Hark! 'tis the linnet and the thrush (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: O Achsah, form'd for ev'ry chaste delight (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Duet: Our limpid streams with freedom flow (Achsah, Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: [Flourish of trumpets]
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: Recitative: The trumpet calls; now Jericho shall know (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act I: May all the host of heav'n attend him round (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: 'Tis well; six times the Lord hath been obey'd (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: A solemn march during the circumvention of the Ark of the Covenant
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Glory to God! - The nations tremble (Chorus, Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: The walls are levell'd (Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Aria: See, the raging flames arise (Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Aria: To vanity and earthly pride (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Let all the seed of Abrah'm now prepare (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Aria: Almighty ruler of the skies (Joshua, Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Joshua, the men dispatch'd by thee to learn (Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: How soon tow'ring our hopes are cross'd (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Whence this dejection? (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Aria: We with redoubled rage return (Joshua, Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Now give the army breath; let war a while (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Aria: Heroes when with glory burning (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Indulgent heav'n hath heard my virgin pray'r (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Aria: As cheers the sun the tender flow'r (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Sure I'm deceiv'd, with sorrow I behold (Caleb, Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Aria: Nations, who in future story (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Brethren and friends, what joy this scene imparts (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: [Flourish of warlike instruments]
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Recitative: Thus far our cause is favour'd by the Lord (Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: [Flourish of warlike instruments]
Joshua, HWV 64: Act II: Chorus: Oh! Thou bright orb, great ruler of the day (Joshua, Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Hail! Mighty Joshua, Hail! (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Aria: Happy, oh trice happy we (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Recitative: Caleb, for holy Eleazer send (Joshua, Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Aria: Shall I in mamre's fertile plain (Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: For all these mercies we will sing (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Recitative: O Caleb, fear'd by foes, by friends ador'd (Othniel, Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Aria: Place danger around me (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Father of mercy, hear the pray'r we make (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Recitative: In bloom of youth, this stripling hath achiev'd (Joshua)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: See the conqu'ring hero comes (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Duet: See the godlike youth advance! (Virgins)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: See the conquering hero comes (Chorus)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Recitative: Welcome! My son, my Othniel, good and great (Caleb, Othniel, Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Aria: Oh! Had I Jubal's lyre (Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Recitative: While life shall last (Othniel)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Duet: O peerless maid, with beauty blest (Othniel, Achsah)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: Recitative: While lawless tyrants, with ambition blind (Caleb)
Joshua, HWV 64: Act III: The great Jehovah is our awful theme (Chorus)

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