Notes and Editorial Reviews
"Gideon is an oratorio put together after Handel’s death by John Christopher Smith, son of the composer’s long-serving secretary and copyist of the same name...One thing should be made plain at once about Gideon (and this, I fear, constitutes a slap on the wrist for Naxos): the balance of materials included by the younger Smith is, on the evidence of Naxos’s own booklet, not at all as described in the blurb on the back of the box. There, we are told “The 1769 oratorio Gideon, with a new libretto by Handel’s former collaborator Thomas Morell, uses music largely drawn from Handel’s work, sacred and secular, with a lesser number of elements by Smith himself.” A careful count of the sources enumerated with admirable clarity in the booklet,
however, yields a total of 21 movements taken over from Handel and 52 either newly composed for the work by Smith or drawn by him from his own earlier works. Granted, most of Smith’s contributions are shorter in duration than those from Handel, but my accounting still shows a duration of 75:17 for the Handel elements and 76:36 for those by Smith.
That said, it should be added that Smith not only makes his Handelian choices with acumen, but was himself a composer of fair accomplishment. The Handel movements tend to be much more memorable in material, more debonair in manner, and in the concluding chorus with solos, “Wondrous are thy works, O Lord,” spine-tinglingly grand, but some of Smith’s contributions, such as the chorus “Destroy these idols” that he adapted from his oratorio The Feast of Darius, and a folksy trio, “Like a bright cherub,” which recalls the vernacular style of John Gay’s runaway hit The Beggar’s Opera, are well worth hearing for their own merits. As for the Handel pieces he chose, it is clear that the younger Smith knew his way around the collection of manuscripts he had inherited from his father... Morell’s libretto, which recounts Gideon’s destruction of the idol of Baal, the defeat of the Midianites, and the miracle of the fleece, is serviceable if rarely inspired...the solo singing is good, the three sopranos and countertenor making the most positive impression, and there is some stylish embellishment."
Bernard Jacobson, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Gideon by John Christopher Smith
Barbara Hannigan (Soprano),
Nicola Wemyss (Mezzo Soprano),
David Cordier (Countertenor),
Linda Perillo (Soprano),
Stephan Macleod (Bass),
Knut Schoch (Tenor)
Joachim Carlos Martini
Frankfurt Junge Kantorei,
Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra
Written: by 1769; London, England
Notes: This work is partly an adaptation of works by George Frideric Handel in addition to Smith's own previously and newly composed material.
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