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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Georg Friedrich HAENDEL (1685-1759)
Esther

Oboe Sonata in G minor, HWV 404 [105.20]
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 [150.20]


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Handel’s oratorio Esther was composed and first performed in 1718, when Handel was at Cannons, the Edgeware estate of James Brydges, Earl of Caernavon. Not performed in London until 1732, this is one of Handel’s shorter oratorios, at less than 100 minutes. This recording includes, between scenes three and four, an oboe concerto, which, according to the notes, "there is no direct evidence that this work was ever performed during Esther." Nevertheless, it is a nice way to add "filler" to a short recording, and the oboe’s prominence in this work gives an additional reason for its inclusion.

Just a glance at the soloists gives one an idea of the quality of this recording. In common with most of The Sixteen’s other recordings of this repertoire. Michael Chance, Mark Padmore, Nancy Argenta, and many other fine singers join forces in this recording. Even though there are only about a dozen arias in this oratorio, some of them are vintage Handel. Mark Padmore’s singing of Tune your harps to cheerful strains is impeccable, and Nancy Argenta’s Praise the Lord with cheerful noise, with harp accompaniment, is charming. And Michael Chance’s long O Jordan, Jordan, sacred tide, is one of the high points of this set.

The choir and orchestra are wonderful, as is usually the case with The Sixteen. The forces are not very large, giving an intimate tone to this work, and the orchestra is perfect for the oboe sonata.

Yet another fine Handel oratorio at a budget price from Regis. Handel fans should snap this one up right away.

Kirk McElhearn

See also review by Rob Barnett


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