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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Silete Venti (motet for soprano and strings) [27:29]
Coronation Anthems (1727):-
Zadok the Priest [5:39]
Let Thy Hand be Strengthened [5:35]
The King shall rejoice [11:08]
My Heart is inditing [12:49]
Rebecca Ryan, soprano (Silete Venti); Elizabeth Franklin-Kitchen, soprano, David Bates, countertenor, Edward Lyon, tenor, Nicholas Warden, bass (My heart is inditing).
The Tallis Chamber Choir
Royal Academy Consort/Jeremy Summerly
Recorded Feb, Apr 2002, Dukes Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London DDD
NAXOS 8.557003 [66:28]

Handelís anthems for the coronation of George II in 1727 are tried and true standards of the choral repertoire. They are also fiendishly difficult to sing well. When performed at modern pitch, they lie extremely high, especially for the tenors and sopranos, and even when sung at A=415hz, they have a fair share of pitfalls. Jeremy Summerly and his forces have assembled one of the more consistently fine performances of these challenging works that I have heard in some time, and have thrown in a much lesser known solo motet as a delightful and unexpected bonus.

Although it probably was not the first anthem performed in the actual service, the boisterous Zadok the Priest, with its deceptively placid opening ritornello is often programmed first in modern presentations. The Tallis Chamber choir is resplendent in the powerful opening chorus, amassing a marvelous wall of sound. My only minor quibble is that the women do not match up to their male colleagues in the execution of the melismatic Alleluia, Amen, their sound being a little pushed and ragged around the edges.

Both The King Shall Rejoice and Let Thy Hand be strengthened receive perfectly elegant and passionate renditions. Kudos go to Maestro Summerly and his chorus for achieving an excellent pace and a blended, lovely choral sound. The orchestra is also of the first water, particularly the glorious trumpeters.

My Heart is inditing, with its rather sexist and cornball text opens with a quartet of soloists that is nearly done in by some less than attractive singing by countertenor David Bates. His weak and uncontrolled tone is no match for his bass counterpart, and he seems unable to shift from his chest to head registers with any ease at all. It is completely beyond me why conductors insist on using such male altos over fine female singers. Unless one has the likes of a Ryland Angel or a Scot Cameron at oneís disposal, then it is simply best to go against authenticity and use a woman. Female choristers are used here, so why not soloists as well? Such a decision on the part of the conductor is a major blight on this otherwise exemplary disc.

The splendid motet Sileti Venti, written some three years after the coronation pieces is clearly designed for a professionally trained, operatic voice. Rebecca Ryan would have pleased Mr. Handel immensely. Hers is a lovely lyric soprano with ample flexibility and evenness throughout her range. An intelligent and sensitive singer, she is careful to portray the mood of the text without making us aware that she is interpreting. Her singing of this rarely heard work is worth the price of the disc.

Jeremy Summerly provides an excellent and concise program note, and the sound quality of the recording is first rate. A winner, again, for Naxos. Highly recommended.

Kevin Sutton

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