HANDEL Coronation Anthems. Organ Concerto in F, op. 4/4. Salve Regina.1 Semele: Endless Pleasure, Endless Love; My Racking Thoughts; O Ecstasy of Happiness! … Myself I Shall Adore1. Solomon: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba • Harry Christophers, cond; The Sixteen Ch and O (period instruments); 1CarolynRead more Sampson (sop) • CORO 16083 (DVD: 120:00) Live: London 8/12/2009
This DVD is the product of the venerable BBC’s Proms Concerts held in the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2009. It is a live performance that nicely complements a more formal one of the famed Coronation Anthems written in 1727 for George II also available from the same period-instrument group, The Sixteen, which has a splendid reputation for interesting and powerful interpretations of Handel’s works. This program was broadcast on the BBC, replete with announcers Martha Kearney and Suzy Klein, an interview during intermission with conductor Harry Christophers, and two bonus tracks of works that one must presume were played during the concert but did not make it into the recording; I cannot say whether or not they actually went out during the live broadcast from which this DVD was taken.
The works chosen are calculated to show off the monumental auditorium with its live acoustics quite well. Since the Proms usually contains a good selection of well-known popular works, this program fits in well with the overall ambience. There are three of the four Coronation Anthems (with the rather more subdued My Heart Is Inditing provided as one of the bonus tracks), the powerful F-Major Organ Concerto (op. 4/4) played on a five-stop continuo organ, the ubiquitous instrumental Arrival of the Queen of Sheba with its perpetual-motion violin/oboe lines, and a selection from the oratorio Semele for soprano Carolyn Sampson (an aria from the first act, and two arias from the third, the last with accompanying recitative). All in all, it’s a good program, blending favorites with some relatively lesser-performed pieces. The final bonus work is the antiphon Salve Regina.
The enhanced period-instrument band is of Handelian proportions, with a good-sized string section, an expanded continuo group (including a harp), and bright woodwinds and brass. The chorus is equally impressive at 30 voices. This is a guarantee to fill the huge hall with Handel’s music, and one knows that it was a tremendous success by the long and sustained audience applause. The works are performed by The Sixteen with their usual high standards. The choral sound is thick or focused, depending on the work. The fugal portions of the Coronation Anthems, for example, sound as if the group was much smaller, allowing for nuances, the contours of the often tortuous lines, and the entrances to come through, and yet when, as in the Zadok the Priest, the full sound is required, they are as powerful as a group much larger. The orchestra is equally spot-on, with excellent intonation and sound control. The brass instruments are crisp and clear, and the woodwinds have a precision in their playing that is enviable. Harry Christophers is clearly one of if not the leading Handel conductor of our time, and his interpretations lend an excitement that the audience certainly feels. Carolyn Sampson sometimes uses a bit of excess vibrato in the Semele arias, but her interaction with the orchestra is also excellent. I particularly like her interpretations of the line, with just the right amount of judicious ornamentation. The Salve Regina is particularly moving. There are no notes (apart from the commentary provided by the “musical experts” Dominic Seldis and Suzanne Aspden, whose commentary I find less than “absorbing,” as the program booklet states); one will have to be content with a simple list of works and personnel. This is hardly disturbing, however. If you can’t afford to take the trip to London to get the full feel of such a concert live in the hall, this will be an excellent close substitute, limited only by the range and power of your DVD speakers.
Semele, HWV 58: My racking thoughtsby George Frideric Handel Performer:
Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Period: Baroque Written: 1744; London, England
A truly excellent presentation of a variety of HaAugust 26, 2012By JOHN H G. (Vineyard Haven, MA)See All My Reviews""The Sixteen" [now really "The 28"], with "The Orchestra of The Sixteen", are a fantastically talented group of musicians who appear to have been chosen for both outstanding ability and attractiveness. Harry Christophers conducts with precision and enthusiastic spirit. Carolyn Simpson was perfect as Semele and great fun. The program was well chosen. The photography in this DVD was very well done; the camera operator knew the music well and showed the proper instruments at the right time. This was a delight. I shall be looking for more by "The Sixteen.""Report Abuse