This issue by Hyperion of selected Chandos Anthems is another
addition to the growing number of Handel recordings in this anniversary
year (2009). The three anthems chosen - which according to the
sleeve-notes should now correctly be termed ‘Anthems for Cannons’,
after the estate of James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon and later
Duke of Chandos, at which they were first performed - come from
a later set composed for four-part choruses and soloists.
Trinity College choir are clearly well-versed in these works.
Their singing throughout the disc is precise and very well controlled.
Occasionally, as in the first anthem, O praise the Lord with
one consent, they can sound a little too high church, with
excessively rolled Rs and cut-glass enunciation, particularly
in the upper registers. But they also prove themselves capable
of gutsy characterisation and intelligent interpretation of
the texts. Their ferocious attack in ‘Let God arise’ (tr. 10)
is initially quite shocking, and full of thrilling drama.
The contribution of the soloists is rather uneven. Iestyn
Davies’s counter-tenor voice is unremarkable. There is little
excitement or enthusiasm in his solos, and he is very much the
junior partner of bass Neal Davies in ‘The heav’ns are thine’
(tr. 21). For his part, Neal Davies exhibits a firm command
of his solos, and his rich, mature voice contrasts with tenor
James Gilchrist’s rather thin sound. Emma Kirkby’s voice has
clearly thickened over the years, but she has lost none of her
expressiveness, control and vocal tenderness. Her singing in
‘My song shall be always’ (tr. 18) is genuinely affecting, with
warm support from the chorus.
Stephen Layton directs the small forces of the Academy of
Ancient Music with precision and tact, although the strings
- minus violas in Handel’s scoring - often sound a little held
back. Skilful playing on oboe and bassoon pulls the orchestra
through to lively effect, as exemplified in the opening sonatas
to ‘Let God arise’ (tr. 9) and ‘My song shall be always’ (tr.
17) – with the latter being re-used by Handel in his Op. 3 concerti
grossi. Overall a highly enjoyable, if unspectacular, disc.