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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Esther - an oratorio in six scenes (1718) original version
Oboe Sonata

Anthony Robson (oboe)
Lynda Russell (sop)
Nancy Argenta (sop)
Michael Chance (alto)
Thomas Randle, Mark Padmore, Matthew Vine, Simon Berridge (ten)
Michael George, Robert Evans, Simon Birchall (basses).
Choir and Orchestra of The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
rec St Judes on the Hill, May 1995 REGIS RRC 2025 2CDs [47.31+57.49]
Bargain price (around £6 per disc)

I liked this Esther a great deal. It is not without blemish but its strengths are numerous. The recording is direct and straight-talking. Michael George is a stern-toned Haman. The choir sings brightly and with precision and a sense of joy. The oboe plays an important lyric role comparable with a solo violin in more modern repertoire. Mark Padmore sings with smooth sweetness. The harp plays a prominent role (e.g. in Praise the Lord) providing the pattern for the Boieldieu Harp Concerto. Nancy Argenta's clarion soprano is trippingly accompanied by the eager harp. Enunciation is clarity itself - just as well as full texts are not given. The work recalled Boyce's serenata Solomon. Randle is very good in Who Calls My Parting Soul From Death - a duet with the dark-toned Russell. O Beauteous Queen is one of Handel's finest inspirations with its serenading bassoon. How Can I Stay When Love Invites is brightly effervescent. The brass fanfares of Jehovah Crowned with glory bright are gripping though they do show up the fallibility of the horns. The artists are eager celebrants all in The Lord Our Enemy Has Slain which amidst its vivid fugal complexity adds a celebratory trumpet to the choral lines.

The Oboe Sonata, across its four movements, alternately sings elegies in woodland dells and strolls along in breezy contentment.

A very happy set which should appeal to any Handelian.

Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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