HANDEL: Chandos Anthems = No. 8, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord”; No. 6a, “As pants the hart”; No. 5a, “I will magnify thee, O God” – Susan Gritton, sop./ Iestyn Davies, alto/ Thomas Hobbs, tenor/ Choir of Trinity College/ Orch. of the Age of Enlightenment / Stephen Layton – Hyperion CDA 67926, 74:48 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
I suggested that the first installment in this series “could be a landmark recording”. Now, four years later, Hyperion has seen fit to issue the second volume—though they are not calling it that—of Handel’s sumptuous Chandos Anthems. Trinity College Choir returns, as does Iestyn Davies with the commanding Stephen Layton at the helm, but the Academy of Ancient Music who graced the first album is absent, replaced by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. There is no drop in quality, with Layton’s irresistible command of the orchestra leading to some exceptionally crisp and ebullient playing, while the singing is as sprightly and lovingly rendered as on the first disc.
I will guide you to the first review for more information on the background of these pieces, and only say that the immense contrasts of the works, originally done in pairs as joyful/penitential, make for enthralling listening. Handel certainly made full use of the rather small resources available to him (including no violas) but compensated with music that is as idiomatic for each participant as anything he ever wrote. Beginning with the opening sonatas, the pieces are almost as effective in their own genre as Bach’s cantatas, and structurally hardly different at all—this is as close as Handel ever got to that type of composition.
Superb readings all around, and one only hopes that we won’t have to wait another four years for the next installment—at that rate it will be 2021 when the series finishes, and that is entirely unacceptable! Great stuff, this, and you should grab it.