Notes and Editorial Reviews
Does the last line of Dryden’s Ode for St. Ceclia’s Day make any sense at all? “The dead shall live, the living die, and music shall untune the sky.” Yeah, right. How about, “and all shall have a slice of pie?” Or maybe, “and none shall know the reason why?” Never mind. Handel’s setting of the poem is gorgeous, and the moment when the trumpets go nuts during that final chorus has to be one of the most thrilling in Baroque music. There have been plenty of fine recordings of the Ode–Pinnock’s, Harnoncourt’s, the older Willcox on Decca–but this one features particularly terrific solo singing from Carolyn Sampson (an exquisite The Soft Complaining Flute) and tenor James Gilchrist, ideal choral work,
effortless pacing, and perfect balances between orchestra and voices.
It also comes with a substantial and interesting coupling: the cantata Cecilia, volgi un sguardo, originally intended as an insert in Alexander’s Feast. The idea of putting an Italian piece in an otherwise English work isn’t as weird as it sounds. In the 1730s Handel had not yet given up writing operas, and as we know he made numerous efforts to fill out the otherwise relatively brief Alexander’s Feast with all sorts of additional material: concertos, extra arias, and other stuff, some of it strategically designed for the star Italian singers that he had available. The Italian cantata contains a couple of arias for tenor, a magnificent da capo number for soprano, and a concluding duet. It lasts almost half an hour, makes a perfect companion to the larger Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day, and it’s just as well performed. A great disc.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Ode for St Cecilia's Day, HWV 76 by George Frideric Handel
James Gilchrist (Tenor),
Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Written: 1739; London, England
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