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Handel: L'allegro, Il Penseroso Ed Il Moderato / Neumann, Doyle, Keohane, Hulett

Handel / Keohane / Cologne Chamber Choir
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Carus   Catalog #: 83395   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Benjamin HulettMaria KeohaneJulia DoyleAndreas Wolf
Conductor:  Peter Neumann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Collegium CartusianumCologne Chamber Choir
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


You probably haven’t ever heard this extraordinary bit of Handelian theatre, a sort of cross between ode and oratorio. Apparently—and inexplicably—it’s only had one new recording in more than a decade, until this captivating newcomer, whose presence all but eliminates the need for the four or five previous entries. For one thing, the music exemplifies all that we love about Handel—including a virtual feast of marvelous tunes, dramatic arias, and snazzy, sonorous choruses. But then there’s the orchestration, the ingenious conceptualization of the texts relative to their context and meaning, the right and satisfying harmonies, the instinctive alignment of aria to voice part (and to singer), the catchy
Read more fugal ideas—and those choruses, which although not nearly so frequent or substantial as in the oratorios, nevertheless are as delightful to sing and eminently pleasing to the ear as in any of Handel’s works.

Handel had the advantage here of having some first-rate poetic material to work with—the selections from John Milton’s L’Allegro and Il Penseroso are as close to music as language can be: “Haste thee, nymph, and bring with thee/jest and youthful jollity/quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,/nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles…”; or this: “Hide me from day’s garish eye/while the bee with honied thigh/that at her flow’ry work doth sing/and the waters murmuring/with such concert as they keep/entice the dewy-feathr’d sleep…Then, as I wake, sweet music breathe/above, about, or underneath/sent by some spirit to mortals good/or, th’unseen genius of the wood.”

For dramatic purposes texts from the two separate poems were re-arranged by Charles Jennens (of Messiah fame) to make a dialogue—between the two dispositions “sanguine” and “melancholy”; a third (and apparently immediately controversial) part, “Il Moderato”, whose text was supplied by Jennens, was added (at the insistence of Handel, according to Jennens) to join “the two independent Poems in one Moral Design”. Needless to say, Jennens was no Milton, and the texts definitely take a dive from the Miltonian heights in Part 3. Of course, Handel didn’t let that stop him; the music is just as good, especially evident in the dazzling soprano/tenor duet “As steals the morn upon the night”.

It helps that for this recording (“based on the London performances of January and February, 1741?) an extraordinary cast of singers and players was assembled, and first among these is Swedish soprano Maria Keohane. She has a lot to do here, and fortunately for us her expressive singing, her silver-sheened vocal quality, and her unfailingly affecting explication of whatever the text, music, and temperament (at different times she represents both L’Allegro and Il Penseroso) only makes us want to hear more. I’ve previously extolled and endorsed soprano Lucy Crowe as today’s preeminent Handel singer; and while I still stand by that view, on evidence of her performance here, Keohane belongs in the same company. Her two primary singing partners, tenor Benjamin Hulett and bass Andreas Wolf, are equally proficient in Handelian style and ideally matched with Keohane in vocal size and timbre—important qualities often and regrettably ignored when casting recording projects such as this.

The chorus perfectly captures the letter and spirit of its supporting role, usually as the collective echoing voice of a preceding aria. (Their rendition of “Haste thee, nymph”, following Hulett’s bravura solo, is a disc highlight.) And while this work is wholly about the singing and nothing but the singing, it can’t be a true success without great direction and orchestral support—and Peter Neumann and his Collegium Cartusianum prove as capable as we—and assuredly Mr. Handel—could hope for, complemented by clearly detailed, vibrant sound, “untwisting all the chains that tie the hidden soul of harmony.” Although this work from early 1740 may have faded into virtual obscurity after a period of success during Handel’s lifetime, it’s hard to imagine that it isn’t time for a new audience after hearing this new, irresistibly compelling production, a disc that should be on any respectable “best of the year” list. Highly recommended.

-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55 by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Benjamin Hulett (Tenor), Maria Keohane (Soprano), Julia Doyle (Soprano),
Andreas Wolf (Bass)
Conductor:  Peter Neumann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Collegium Cartusianum,  Cologne Chamber Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1740; London, England 

Sound Samples

L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Ouverture (Concerto grosso, Op. 6)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Accompagnato: Hence, loathed Melancholy (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Accompagnato: Hence, vain deluding joys (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Come, thou Goddess fair and free (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Come rather, Goddess, sage and holy (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Haste thee, nymph (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Haste thee, nymph (Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Come and trip it (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Come, and trip it (Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Accompagnato: Come, pensive Nun (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Arioso: Come, but keep thy wonted state (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Accompagnato: There, held in holy passion still (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Join with thee (Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Recitative: Hence, loathed Melancholy (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Recitative: If I give thee honour due (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Mirth, admit me of thy crew (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Accompagnato: First and chief, on golden wing (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Sweet bird, that shun'st the noise of folly (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Recitativo: If I give thee honour due (Basso)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Mirth, admit me of thy crew (Bass)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Oft, on a plat of rising ground (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Far from all resort of mirth (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Recitative: If I give thee honour due (L'Allegro: Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Let me wander not unseen (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Straight mine eye (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Accompagnato: Mountains, on whose barren breast (Bass)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: Air: Or let the merry bells ring round (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part I: And young and old come forth to play (Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Accompagnato: Hence, vain deluding Joys (Il Penseroso: Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Air: Sometimes let gorgeous Tragedy (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Air: But oh, sad virgin (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Recitative: Thus, Night, oft see me (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Populous cities please me then (Basso, Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Air: There let Hymen oft appear (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Accompagnato: Me, when the Sun begins to fling (Il Penseroso: Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Air: Hide me from Day's garnish eye (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Air: I'll to the well-trod stage anon (Il Allegro: Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Air: And ever against eating cares (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Air: Orpheus self may have his head (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: These delights if thou canst give (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II:These delights if thou canst give (Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: Recitative: But ley my due feet never fail (Il Penseroso: Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: There let the pealing organ blow (Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part II: These pleasures, Melancholy, give (Soprano, Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: Accompagnato: Hence! Boast not, ye profane (Il Moderato: Bass)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: 43: Air: Come, with native lustre shine (Bass)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: Accompagnato: Sweet Temp'rance (Bass)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: All this company serene (Chorus)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: Air: Come, with gentle hand restrain (Soprano)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: Recitative: No more short life they then will spend in straying (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: Air: Each action will derive new grace (Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: As steals the morn upon the night (Soprano and Tenor)
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55: Part III: Chorus: Thy pleasures, Moderation, give

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