> HANDEL Samson The Sixteen [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Georg Friedrich HAENDEL (1685-1759)
Samson (1741)
Samson - Thomas Randle (tenor)
Israelite man, Philistine man - Mark Padmore (tenor)
Dalila - Lynda Russell (soprano)
Israelite woman, Philistine woman, Virgin - Lynne Dawson
Micah - Catherine Wyn-Rogers (alto)
Messenger - Matthew Vine (tenor)
Manoa - Michael George (bass)
Harapha - Jonathan best (bass)
The Sixteen
The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers
Rec: 1996
CORO 16008 [205.05]
3CDs Midprice
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.

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Handel's oratorio Samson, composed in 1741, recounts the betrayal, the remorse and the victory of Samson, the Israeli army commander, whose power grew with his hair. The work begins one year after he is captured and blinded, when the priests of the pagan god Dagon are celebrating their greatest triumph. In his last struggle, Samson, accompanied by his father Manoah and his friend Micah, has to withstand the temptations of the seductress Dalila and the giant Harapha, both followers of Dagon. When his strength returns, Samson smashes the pillars of Dagonís temple and buries the enemies and himself under the rubble.

With this biblical subject, Handel composed one of his most beautiful oratorios. Featuring a wealth of excellent, memorable arias, and choral movements, this work is one of his finest. Of this performance, which is a "complete" version of the work (running as much as an hour longer than some other recordings), Harry Christophers says, "one of the most complete works by this great man". He approaches it in that sense.

While this work has, globally, a dense and emotional approach, individual sections are also given their true value. In the first act, two of the most marked numbers, Awake the trumpetís lofty sound! (which is heard three times) and Ye men of Gaza, hither bring, each take on powerful sound and emotion. The former has the lofty brass sounding in harmony with the strong chorus, and the latter has soprano Lynda Russell giving an emotional reading.

All the soloists are strong, with tenors Mark Padmore and Thomas Randle standing out, though Randleís vibrato is excessive at times. But listeners who tend not to appreciate baroque opera, and especially Handel, because of soprano and counter-tenor leads, will find this combination of rich tenor voices enjoyable.

The recording is very good and well-balanced, but there is a little too much reverb, which is more noticeable during solo arias than during choral movements. It should be noted that this work fits perfectly onto the three discs - each act takes up one CD, making it much easier to listen to if one does not have time to sit through all 3Ĺ hours at once.
Kirk McElhearn


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