is one of two new recordings of Solomon to have been
released recently, the other being on Harmonia Mundi in a performance
directed by Daniel Reuss. Hitherto catalogue leaders in the
field have been the 1984 Gardiner on Philips [412 612-2] which,
like the current Reuss, has some cuts and the much later 1998
McCreesh on Archiv [459 688-2] which doesn’t. Will this McGegan
fit the bill?
his version is complete and he sticks to Handel’s ordering of
choruses and arias - not everyone does. And he was recorded
live in the Frauenkirche, Dresden where Carus has so successfully recorded
before. The use of an all-male choir is good – Handel used one
– and he has some unusually forceful basses in the Winchester
Cathedral Choir; which is another plus as far as I’m concerned.
The modest-sized Göttingen Festival Orchestra responds adeptly
to his direction and there are some notable orchestral flourishes
and touches throughout. Listen for example to the lower strings
throbbing at the words “resound your Maker’s name” in the Priests’
Chorus With pious hearts – excellent and exciting. But
in the end much falls on the singers and this is where quite
a lot falls down.
start with someone of whom that cannot be said, Roderick Williams.
Here is a Levite firm of voice, clear of diction, and strong
of characterization. His every appearance gave me pleasure.
Try him in Act II’s Thrice bless’d for instance – secure,
commanding. The two Queens (and Harlots) are good, though not outstanding. Dominique Labelle
starts a little nervously but soon gets into her stride. I’m
not taken by her cadential passage in Bless’d the day
but she’s otherwise a fine team player. Claron McFaddon sings
Will the sun splendidly – it’s one of the most beautiful
arias in the work and she does it justice. Together she and
Labelle are pushed too hard and fast in their duet Welcome
as the Dawn of day, McGegan succumbing to the modern manner
of hard-driving the duet as if it were a flock of recalcitrant
Michael Slattery suffers from a surfeit of self-regard alas.
He rolls his “r” with almost comic relish and constantly subjects
Almighty pow’r and other recitatives and arias to a degree
of assault and battery. This contrasts with the stillness and
gravity of Williams to an almost embarrassing degree. To add
insult his divisions in Sacred rapture are approximate
– one can hear him audibly grab for the safety of the legato
passage after the taxing time he’s had. As Solomon we have countertenor
Tim Mead. His voice is a little reminiscent of James Bowman’s
though he lacks the latter’s fluidity. It’s not a “free” sounding
voice and it lacks colour and vibrance; thus that most beautiful
of arias What though I trace goes for little. Hs duet
with Labelle, in which amorous joys are in the offing, sounds
rather like a boy scout going off to put up a tent for all the
sexiness he puts into it.
no, this latest entrant doesn’t really alter the balance of power
in the discography stakes; McCreesh for a first class complete
edition; Gardiner for a cut version; Beecham (Somm – rearranged
by the Bart) for historical bravado.
by John Sheppard