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George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Chandos Anthem No.9, O praise the Lord with one consent, HWV25 [25:00]
Chandos Anthem No. 11a, Let God arise, HWV256a [21:06]
Chandos Anthem No. 7, My song shall be always, HWV252 [20:01]
Iestyn Davies (alto); James Gilchrist (tenor); Neal Davies (bass); Emma Kirkby (soprano)
Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge
Academy of Ancient Music/Stephen Layton
rec. Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, 29 June-1 July 2008. DDD
HYPERION CDA67737 [66:09] 
Experience Classicsonline

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.

John-Pierre Joyce


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