A Handel Celebration (2009)

by | Sep 27, 2010 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

A Handel Celebration (2009)

Coronation Anthems: Let thy hand be strengthened; The King shall rejoice; Zadok the Priest; Semele: Endless Pleasure, endless love; My racking thoughts; O ecstasy of happiness!…Myself I shall adore; Solomon: The arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Overture); Organ Concerto in F Major, Op. 4 No. 4
Interview with Harry Christophers   

Performers: Carolyn Sampson, soprano/ Alastair Ross, organ/ The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra/ Harry Christophers, conductor
Producer: Dominic Best
Studio: Coro 16083 [Distr. by Allegro]

Video: 16:9 DVD 9 Color

Audio: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1
Extras: Coronation Anthem: My heart is inditing; Salve regina

Length: 120 minutes
Rating: *****

So you think a period ensemble can’t fill the Albert Hall? Think again! This 2009 Handel Celebration is a fun fest from start to finish, and evidently the packed crowd that showed up to join in thought so as well. The highlight is of course the Coronation Anthems. Although the Sixteen have a relatively new recording of them out on the Coro label, this DVD is every bit their equal and thoroughly enjoyable. They are given divided up among the other numbers of the program, and the only thing I don’t like is that the last one given, My heart is inditing, is one of the bonus tracks and not part of the program, so you have to go out to the menu in order to get to it.

Carolyn Sampson, one of my favorite sopranos, is absolutely sterling in her three numbers from Handel’s failed oratorio/opera Semele. The coyness with which sings “O ecstasy of happiness!…Myself I shall adore” (after conductor Christophers hands her a mirror which she uses to great advantage) is one of the highlights of a disc full of highlights. The concert opens suitably with a rousing The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and the Organ Concerto is sparkling and beautifully played by Alastair Ross, the longtime house organist of the Sixteen.

It is interesting that this Proms concert is emceed by one announcer and two commentators that remind me of a football game, speaking mostly inanities between numbers. But the film work is quite nice, capturing the decorated Albert Hall in its splendor, and the sound is excellent. Many of these sorts of concerts are lackluster and dull in many ways, but this one is engrossing and enjoyable from first to last, and it is solidly recommended. The Sixteen has always been my favorite English period group, and they don’t let me down here.

— Steven Ritter  

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