- Paul Agnew
- Susan Gritton (Soprano)
- Neal Davies (Bass-Baritone)
- Lorna Anderson (Soprano)
- Claron McFadden (Soprano)
Notes & Reviews:
There is no definitive version of this oratorio as Handel made many changes over time. However, the intention of this performance is to retain the freshness of Handel's original vision with the advantage of the best of his second thoughts. As we have been beaten to the punch in reviewing this recording by Gramophone magazine, who have named it Editor's Choice for October, 1999, we will be content to say simply: highly recommended.
'One of Handel's loveliest English works, full of the pastoral delights of Acis and Galatea and some of his most sublime vocal inspirations' (The Sunday Times)
'L'Allegro would with little doubt be one of my desert island pieces, all the most so after listening to this first truly complete recording of Handel's delectable pastotal ode. Enjoy!' (Gramophone)
'This delightful set... must surely rank as one of the discs of the year' (The Scotsman)
'Unfailingly excellent' (BBC Music Magazine)
'Robert King's affection for the work shines out from every number' (Classic CD)
'This pure Baroque beauty is a dramatic piece rich in short, tuneful airs, each more beautiful than the last. Few Handel vocal works give me such enduring pleasure' (Classic FM Magazine)
'A first rate work ... This is easily one of the best of the year and perhaps the best Handel recording of 1999' (Goldberg)
Gramophone Classical Music Guide
This is the first truly complete recording of Handel's delectable pastoral ode. The whole work is suffused with an almost pantheistic sense of wonder and delight in the natural world. While alive to the al fresco gaiety of numbers such as 'Mirth, admit me of thy crew' and 'O let the merry bells', Robert King gives full value to the tranquil reflectiveness that lies at the core of the work, favouring broad tempos and gravely expressive phrasing. Occasionally, as in the soprano aria 'Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures', his approach seems a shade too reverential.
But for the most part he directs this glorious music with affection and relish, abetted by vivid orchestral playing and a typically responsive contribution from the chorus.
Susan Gritton is a soprano of rare accomplishment, with a warm, pure, yet highly individual timbre and a wonderful feeling for the broad Handelian line. Both the scena 'Come pensive nun' and the romantic nocturne 'Oft on a plat of rising ground', with its haunting evocation of 'the far-off curfew', are intensely moving; and, with the cellist Jane Coe, she makes an eloquent case for the long florid aria 'But O! sad virgin', omitted in the Gardiner recording. Lorna Anderson, if a mite less secure above the stave, brings an appealing plangent tone to the nightingale aria 'Sweet bird' (done complete here, whereas Gardiner makes drastic cuts) and a trancelike absorption to the sublime 'Hide me from Day's garish eye'. Some slightly odd vowel sounds apart, Claron McFadden's bright, eager tones and nimble coloratura serve the more extrovert arias well; Neal Davies is sturdy in his bucolic hunting number and mellifluous in his minuet aria in Il moderato; and Paul Agnew is personable and stylish, though his legato is rather shown up by Susan Gritton's in 'As steals the morn'.
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Works DetailsHandel, George Frideric : L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (Pastoral Ode), oratorio, HWV 55
- Performers: Paul Agnew; Susan Gritton (Soprano); Neal Davies (Bass-Baritone); Lorna Anderson (Soprano); Claron McFadden (Soprano)
- Conductor: Robert King
- Ensemble: King's Consort Choir
- Notes: St. Jude-On-The-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, England (02/05/1999-02/12/1999)
- Running Time: 5 min. 8 sec.
- Period Time: Baroque
- Form: Choral
- Written: 1740