> Handel Arias Hobson [PS]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

George Frederic HANDEL
HANDEL Arias:

Semele: Whereíer You Walk. Serse: Ombra Mai Fu. Ode For St Ceciliaís Day: The Trumpetís Loud Clangour. Messiah: Comford Ye/Evíry Valley. Esther: Tune Your Harps. Samson: Total Eclipse! Il Trionfo Del Tempo E Del Disinganno: Lascia la Spina. Tamerlano: Ciel Terra; Su la Sponda. Acis And Galatea: Love in Her Eyes. Athalia: Gentle Airs. Atalanta: Care Selve Jephtha: Waft Her Angels. Tolomeo: Silent Worship. Judas Maccabeus: Sound the Alarm!
David Hobson (tenor)
Cantillation
Sinfonia Australis/Antony Walker
Rec 2001
ABC CLASSICS ABC 472 151-2 [55í13"]

Handelís music has always been popular in the UK and although by the early 19th Century relatively few of his many oratorios and cantatas and none of the equally numerous Italian operas retained their popularity as complete entities, individual arias therefrom were always in demand. Indeed, even before 1800 British musicians compiled their own oratorios exclusively re-cycling material from various different Handel works. In 1791 two such, Omnipotence and Redemption, were advertised in the press and the following year Jehovah selected from Handel by Dr Miller of Doncaster, was performed in Sheffield. Discs of individual Handel arias, for whatever type of voice, remain popular in our own time. I have reviewed a number myself and always with pleasure as Handelís glorious music has a life-enhancing quality. And this applies whether the performances consciously try to get back to "originality" in vocal style and orchestral accompaniment, or whether (as was always the case in my young day) they were, or are, overlaid with a Romantic veneer.

Here is another disc, from Australia, which has been giving me a lot of enjoyment. A casual glance suggests that it is confined to all the best known Handel tenor arias ("Ombra Mai Fu" is however more usually heard sung by an alto), but there are a few lesser heard items. These include the two contrasting arias from Tamerlano, by common consent one of Handelís finest Italian operas and Athalia, represented here by a short but shapely air. Esther, exemplified by the surpassingly beautiful "Tune Your Harps", with its enchanting accompaniment of solo oboe and pizzicato strings (no actual harp(s)!) is rarely heard complete. While "Lascia la Spina", later famous as Lascia Chíio Pianga in Handelís first opera for London, Rinaldo (1710), and a tune he reused a number of times, appears here in its first vocal version, from an Italian cantata of 1707, itself twice later revised by Handel.

Mr Hobsonís sometimes rather nasal delivery has admirable incisiveness and clarity, both in line and, particularly so, in diction. There was scarcely need, at least for the English arias, to print the words in the booklet which also has an interesting article on the development of the tenor voice in the 18th Century English concert scene. Tempi are generally on the quick side, which accords with the present day stylish Handelian performance. Particularly is this the case with "Tune Your Harps", "Waft Her Angels" and, most of all, "Sound An Alarm", where Judas appears to be summoning his light infantry! This being so, there would have been room for several more tracks for the greedy Handel enthusiast as the disc is not over-filled and I can think of more strong candidates, from Acis, Joshua, Jephtha, Judas Maccabeus and Samson, not to mention Messiah. Some arias, though not all, have their da capos decorated in the manner of Handelís period (at one time this was never done), although by no means was Handel a slave to the da capo aria. In view of these nods towards "authenticity" it is surprising that the aria from Tolomeo, the lovely "Silent Worship" is not performed in its original, but with Arthur Somervellís long-popular words which have nothing to do with Tolomeo.

Handelians all over the world will, I am sure, delight in Mr Hobsonís realisation of Handelís greatest (tenor) hits. He is well supported by the twelve-voice Cantillation which provide the choral follow-ons to "The Trumpetís Loud Clangour" and "Sound An Alarm" and by the crisply stylish Sinfonia Australis. Special mentions here for oboist Linda Walsh for her beautifully phrased contributions to the Esther and Acis arias and "Su la Sponda" from Tamerlano. Trumpet player Leanne Sullivan must also be singled out for her stirring introduction to the St Ceciliaís Day aria. Cellist Susan Blakeís sustained playing in the Athalia and Atalanta excerpts is also notable. Despite my slight reservations noted above I am happy to give the disc the warmest of welcomes.
Philip L Scowcroft

 

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