In this pioneering recording Dunedin Consort presents a brand new performing version of one of Handel’s greatest dramatic works, Samson. For the first time listeners can enjoy an authentic Handelian chorus, comprising both solo sopranos and boy trebles – a sonority largely unheard in the modern age. The singers available to Handel for the work’s first set ofa performances in 1743 varied considerably, leading many researchers to speculate upon the composer’s own preferences. But new thinking by director John Butt has led to the evolution of this recording and to what he considers to be the definitive performance in line with Handel’s intentions. This powerful oratorio – anRead more opera in all but name – features soloists Sophie Bevan, Matthew Brook, Mary Bevan, Hugo Hymas and Jess Dandy, with Joshua Ellicott in the title role. Matching the revelatory historical practice begun in its award-winning recording of Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742), the soloists lead their sections to unite the solo and choral forces, creating a highly effective and cohesive sound. With rich orchestration and highlights such as ‘Let the bright seraphim’ and ‘Total eclipse’, Samson is Dunedin Consort’s most ambitious undertaking to date.
This new Samson now becomes the top recommendation: for its uniformly excellent soloists, its excitingly ‘present’ choral singing and, above all, its more urgent sense of theatre. Sophie and Mary Bevan, both natural Handelian stylists, are well-nigh ideal. Jess Dandy, a true contralto, is the oratorio’s voice of balm, singing the sublime prayer ‘Return, O God of hosts’ with warm, even tone and broad phrasing.