One of the uncontested Handel masters, and one of the
finest conductors of choral music, Stephen Cleobury presents a new recording
of some of Handel’s finest coronation anthems, together with the Ode
for the Birthday of Queen Anne. As in most of Cleobury’s Handel recordings,
the star is the choir. With its rich, lush sound, this is grand choral
music in the finest sense. The Alleluia of The King shall rejoice is
one of those choral movements that sounds best with a huge choir, and
here, the full, round sound of the choir is majestic.
Yet the choir can be light and airy as well, in Upon
my right hand, from My heart is inditing. The opening of this movement
shows the subtle textures that Cleobury can obtain from his choir, and
the recording flatters the voices even more, with each individual voice
clearly heard. The sound of this disc is almost perfect, even if, at
the loudest points, it tends to become a bit blurry.
The music itself is quite straightforward, with most
of the movements being simple strophic sections, some with the choir
singing in canon, but the real joy of these pieces is the magnificent
layers of texture that are developed. Handel certainly knew how to orchestrate
his melodies for the fullest effect, and these regal anthems show off
his musical pyrotechnics.
The Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne is a much more
solemn piece, and takes up about half of this disc. With three soloists,
this is more like a short oratorio. We are blessed with excellent singers
for this piece, and Robin Blaze shines as he often does in this type
of repertoire. Soprano Susan Gritton is excellent, her voice sounds
ideal for this music as well, and she is rich in emotion and charm.
This excellent recording is full of joy and happiness,
and is a delight to listen to. Handel’s coronation anthems are regal
and grand, and the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne is a varied work,
which shows off three fine soloists.