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
Yet another fine Handel oratorio at a budget price
from Regis. Handel fans should snap this one up right away.
See also review
by Rob Barnett