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Handel: Alexander's Feast

Album Summary

>Handel, George Frideric : Alexander's Feast, HWV 75
Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

First performed in London in 1736 to an admiring audience of 1,300 people, and enjoying considerable success thereafter, Handel's setting of John Dryden's 1697 poem 'Alexander's Feast' evokes the power of music to stir the soul to acts of love and war, revenge and revels. This splendid oratorio, set at Alexander the Great's victory celebrations for his conquest of Persia, culminates in an apotheosis to 'divine Cecilia', the patron saint of music whom Handel also praises in his 'Ode for St Cecilia's Day' of 1739 (NXS 8554752).

"This is another in the series of concert recordings that Martini has led for Naxos, and it is thoroughly satisfactory - perhaps the best in the conductor's series. None of the three solo singers was born to English, but they deliver it well. Mertens is the one familiar name among them and is predictably excellent, but the other two are quite fine. The chorus is robust and musters excellent diction. The 27-member period orchestra is very good...But be warned that the bargain is slightly qualified by the misguided penny-pinching of Naxos, which denies you the full text of the piece - must punch up that web, you know." - American Record Guide

"The performance is characterised by an austerity of tone that speaks volumes in the closing sections, when worldliness gives way to spirituality...The playing is spare, stylish and beautiful. Listen out, meanwhile, for silver-toned soprano Gerlinde Sämann, new to me, but a real find on this showing." -The Guardian

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Kloster Eberbach, Rheingau, Germany (05/11/2008).


Satisfactory Handel
This disc contains both parts of the Ode written in honor of St. Cecilia, HWV 75. The piece itself marries detailed music making and requires solid vocal contributions from the featured soloists, while at the same time not coming across as too heavy sounding. This demands a joyful and energetic touch from the orchestra (and its conductor), as well as inspired performances from the soloists. The Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra more than does its job here, providing deliciously enjoyable music for the soloists to launch themselves from. Unfortunately, while each individual soloist performs their role well, the performances themselves rarely sparkle -- each featured solo and recitative are executed correctly, but as a whole there seems to be something missing. I cannot point to one particular thing that seems lacking – rather, as a whole it seems as if either the orchestra outshines the soloists, or the soloists can’t quite match the orchestra’s energy level. With respect to recording quality, the piece itself is well recorded, and the acoustics of the venue are certainly adequate. But again, there is *something* lacking. That being said, if what you are looking for is a recording of this piece that you can put on in the background and not worry about being suddenly distracted, then this is definitely a recording worth purchasing – ditto if you are looking to complete a collection of Handel’s works. On the other hand, if you want a performance that enthralls you and makes you stop what you are doing to pay attention to it, then this probably won’t fit the bill.
Submitted on 01/24/11 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Handel, George Frideric : Alexander's Feast, HWV 75
  • Conductor: Joachim Martini
  • Running Time: 5 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Cantata/Oratorio
  • Written: 1736