“Music for Queen Caroline” = HANDEL: The king shall rejoice, HWV 260; Te Deum ‘Caroline’, HWV 280; The Ways of Zion do mourn, HWV 264 – Tim Meade, countertenor/ Sean Clayton, tenor/ Lisandro Abadie, bass-bar./ Les Arts Florissants/ William Christie – Arts Florissants AF.004, 72:17 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Queen Caroline (Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach) was queen of Great Britain as the wife of King George II. She was orphaned at an early age and was raised by her guardians, the quite-enlightened King Frederick I and Queen Sophia Charlotte of Spain, ended up with George Augustus, the third-in-line to the British throne and heir apparent to the Electorate of Hanover. She moved to Britain in 1714 when her husband became Prince of Wales, and became Queen Consort upon the accession of her husband as King in 1727. As a patroness of the arts, one will search in vain for someone more enlightened and committed to the cause.
She might have met Handel while still in the Prussian court, but the connection with the composer was sincere and immediate. Indeed, he composed much music, including the magnificent Giulio Cesare, for this woman who counted Alexander Pope, Isaac Newton, and Voltaire among her friends.
What William Christie has done here is to offer three significant works connected to the life of the Queen. The Te Deum—often called the Caroline Te Deum, was most likely composed for the arrival of the Prince of Wales and his father King George I, but repeated the same year for the auspicious entrance of Caroline into London society. The King shall rejoice was undoubtedly a splash when played for the coronation of the royal couple, intended for performance immediately after the solemn event of the King’s crowning. And most significantly, after the sudden and unexpected death of beloved Caroline in 1737, Handel was commissioned for the funeral anthem The Ways of Zion do mourn, sung with forces that had not been seen at Westminster Abbey since the great coronation ten years earlier. A great light had gone out, and Handel must have felt this as personally as anything in his life—the music certainly reflects this sentiment.
This is an outstanding concert event with an enlightened tie-in for subject matter, thematically inspired for certain. All forces are captured in wonderfully expansive stereo sound in performances equally adept. The Christie trend of including a commissioned short story in booklet form related to the content continues, this time the author being Douglas Kennedy in a work called At the Concert. It’s fine, but adds little to the attraction of the enterprise. Handel lovers—and most anyone else—will have trouble resisting this.
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