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Handel: Acis and Galatea
George Frideric Handel, William Christie, Sophie Daneman
Handel: Acis and Galatea
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #2

Handel's sunny pastorale ("oratorio" seems too imposing a word) Acis and Galatea is just the thing to cheer you up if you're feeling gloomy, its bittersweet ending notwithstanding. It gets performed and recorded these day...  more »

      
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Handel's sunny pastorale ("oratorio" seems too imposing a word) Acis and Galatea is just the thing to cheer you up if you're feeling gloomy, its bittersweet ending notwithstanding. It gets performed and recorded these days in several different versions, ranging from Handel's chamber-scaled 1718 original (using only five soloists, who also make up the chorus) to a German-language arrangement by Mozart with four-part choir and orchestra. William Christie's version follows the one that Handel used for a 1739 revival of the piece, in which he gave the sidekick role of Damon (originally for tenor) to a boy soprano and tacked onto Acis and Galatea's duet "Happy we" a choral reprise. Whatever the variants used, this is by far the best rendition of Acis I've ever encountered. The gentle nymph Galatea is the perfect role for Sophie Daneman's light soprano; Paul Agnew's gorgeous tenor is just as well suited to Acis--ardent and brave, yet light enough that you can believe the giant Polyphemus could crush him with a rock. Because he's the villain, Polyphemus is one of the few characters at whose stupidity one can laugh without feeling mean-spirited; the only problem with Alan Ewing's beautifully sung reading is that it's not very funny--it's perhaps too musically nuanced for a character that dumb. As Damon, Patricia Petibon sounds a bit ripe for a shepherd boy, but she's superb, and her embellishments are ingenious (if not particularly spontaneous); tenor Joseph Cornwell as Coridon gives a marvelous (and surprisingly robust) rendition of "Would you gain the tender creature." Conductor William Christie has chosen well--not just his singers but also his tempi: for example, "Must I my Acis still bemoan" is much slower than usual, and much more convincingly sad. We think of Christie as a French baroque specialist, but he shows a real feeling for Handel here. --Matthew Westphal
 

CD Reviews

Another William Christie winner
Gerardo Cabrera Munoz | México | 10/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This delightful pastoral cantata has not been as lucky on record as one would wish. The old Gardiner recording has been the general recommendation for over 20 years, but now comes this new ERATO recording and easily swipes the board. The singers are marvelous, especially the full voiced tenor Paul Agnew, but it is the conducting of William Christie that makes this set so very special. Don't miss it, it's delightful."
Et in arcadia ego
Anthony Adler | Chicago, IL United States | 03/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While I must grant Stuart Howard whatever cup of tea pleases him best, I simply cannot fathom how he could find "Acis and Galatea" "relentlessly sugary-sweet." This music is sweet, yet it is a sweetness shrouded in a melancholy that is all the more profound for lacking all psychological and dramatic motivation, historical pomp, philosophical convolution, and all those other things that amaze small minds but only distract from the true wonder of mortal life. Where else, after all, are "depths" to be found than in love, beauty, joy, sorrow, death, the relation of Gods to Humans --- and what better stands repetition than a work which presents those passions in their purity whose own repetition and alternation is the ineradicable substance of life itself?
In the words of the poet Hölderlin:Wer das Tiefste gedacht, liebt das Lebendigste,
Hohe Jugend versteht, wer in die Welt geblickt,
Und es neigen die Weisen
Oft am Ende zu Schönem sich.(Who has thought the deepest, loves what is most alive,
He who has glanced into the world, understands high youth,
And the wise often incline
In the end to the beautiful)"
This Will Charm You
M. C. Passarella | Lawrenceville, GA | 12/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Wonderfully entertaining, both Handel's delicious music and William Christie's equally delicious performance. Christie's expert orchestra is in especially fine form and captured in an acoustical setting that permits the delicacies of this intimate entertainment to shine but never overwhelm. It is like hearing the work in the hall of one of the great houses of England, which it indeed was in its day.

The soloists are all top-notch, but special praise must be accorded Bass Alan Ewing. His air "O ruddier than the cherry" is delightfully ardent, straying to just this side of the outright randy, if that's an appropriate adjective for a character from a Handel entertainment. It is--just listen to "Semele" sometime! Fine work as well in this air from Sebastien Marq playing the sopranino recorder, a fey little touch by Handel that is just one of many wonderful instrumental flourishes given the royal treatment by Les Arts Florissants."