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Handel: Ode for St. Cecilia's Day
George Frederick Handel, Philip Ledger, English Chamber Orchestra
Handel: Ode for St. Cecilia's Day
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1


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DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 03/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There is no way I can withold a 5th star from this despite the shortish measure - only 45 minutes or so. The discography of Handel is not in proportion to his significance and I am not going to quibble when offered something as good as this. The style is 'authentic' in a way that I would expect will give most music-lovers no problem, free from dryness, affectation or exaggerated antiqueness, and the recorded quality is excellent. I am definitely a fan of Jill Gomez. She has a sweet, pure soprano tone, completely comfortable with the high tessitura of her first aria and priestess-like in the unaccompanied invocations at the start of the remarkable final chorus. This is a device Handel used on a smaller scale in Israel in Egypt, but he makes a lot more of it here. Robert Tear is very effective in an 'upfront' way, the instrumental soloists are exemplary, and the whole work is Handel at his most attractive. The text is Dryden's (Purcell set various others) and it obviously does no harm to have some decent poetry for once. What St Cecilia ever had to do with music seems to be a bit of a mystery, but she is worth a few novenas for what she inspired various composers to, Purcell as well and Handel not only here but in the even better Alexander's Feast."
The Messiah Was Just Around the Corner
DAVID BRYSON | 07/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Well, the Messiah was only three years ahead of him when Handel wrote his great setting of John Dryden's shorter Cecilian ode. And you'll note that the final chorus, "The dead shall live," inhabits that long-breathed and potent world of the great choruses from the Messiah and Israel in Egypt, written the same year as the Ode for St. Cecilia's Day.The current recording is mostly magnificent, with a militant Robert Tear, whose aria with chorus "The trumpet's loud clangor" is exciting in the extreme, with help from a resplendently recorded solo trumpet and the very alert Choir of King's College, Cambridge. My one slight reservation concerns Jill Gomez, who seems to be universally admired, so maybe I'm out in left field. But while I find her voice a highly responsive instrument for which Handel's difficult coloratura passages hold no terrors, for me it is also a trifle hooty, and Gomez' enunciation is not clear, especially compared to that of the clarion-voiced Mr. Tear. But as I say, my reservation is a slight one, considering the great strengths of this performance: excellent playing from the English Chamber Orchestra, lush and colorful contributions from the solo instrumentalists (cello, flute, lute, trumpet, organ), and the superb work of the chorus and of Robert Tear. Not to mention that of Philip Ledger, who moves the proceedings at just the right pace, building the great climaxes thrillingly. Even the engineers are on their very best behavior, turning in a recording that is a model of clarity and vividness. A great work gets its due here."