TRIUMPH OF BEAUTY AND PLEASURE
DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 06/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This lengthy cantata (or secular oratorio) had a complex evolution going back half a century before Handel produced it in its final version in 1758, the last complete year of his life. Much of the music seems to date back to his early 20's and his sojourn in Italy with Italian words and title, there was an intermediate version (still in Italian) from 1737, and the 1758 update is finally in English, including further choral contributions. In the bad old days (not at all long ago) when Handel was still largely unsung and unknown the work was commonly criticised for being a rehash of earlier music. I wonder how such critics would have handled the matter if they had known that exactly the same is true of that fully official masterpiece Bach's Mass in B minor. This was how composers of that era operated, the romantic view that every work of art should be the outcome of fresh inspiration being still well in the future. The libretto is by the Rev Thomas Morell, collaborator with Handel on his last two oratorios Theodora and Jephtha as well as certain others. The text has been criticised, but I will come to the defence of Morell as well as Handel. What I am not clear about is to what extent Morell had to wrap English words round music that had once been set to Italian, but what I do say is that there is not one solitary piece of bad declamation from start to finish. The words fit the music with perfect naturalness. Morell had a special talent in this respect, as can be seen from the pasticcio-Handel oratorios such as Gideon that continued to be produced by Handel's pupil John Christopher Smith, to Morell's words and Handel's recycled music, for years after Handel's own death.
The task in this case surely can't have inspired Morell much. To call the theme, such as it is, of the work platitudinous would be insulting to platitudes. Time passes, we are solemnly informed, with its familiar adverse effects on beauty. The carrot of immortality is dangled rather half-heartedly, and beauty (or rather Beauty) has to choose between resignation to the beast Time or further dalliance with Pleasure, choosing of course the former as was politically correct and edifying to do at that period. With this for a text one thing is for certain - the music had better be good.
Fortunately it is very good indeed. The very fact that Handel resurrected the work in one form or another not once but twice surely suggests that he thought well of it. If so, I agree. The style has far more in common with his later English style than with such early works as the Dixit Dominus or the Brockes Passion, which are much more in the German manner as we know that from Bach. Assuming that much of the music actually does date from that period, it suggests to me that Handel was already developing a new style for secular music very early in his career. Nothing in the galumphing portentousness of the text (`Pleasure! My former ways resigning,/To Virtue's cause inclining,/Thee, Pleasure, now I leave' and similar balderdash) seems to have placed a dampener on his inspiration, which is as fresh as paint from beginning to end. The performance seems very good to me too. It is a `period' performance, and I am rather sorry that no credits are given to the instrumentalists. The vocalists are well-known experts in early 18th century music for the most part, although Ian Partridge as Pleasure is probably better known in the 19th century repertory. His voice has deepened since I first heard him in Schubert's mill songs, and it is probably fair to say that it has coarsened just a little, but his artistry is impeccable and he fits in very well with the rest of the cast. Emma Kirkby is here as Deceit, a fairly small part seemingly added in 1758, Charles Brett has the countertenor role of `Counsel, or Truth', but the stars, for me, are Gillian Fisher as Beauty and maybe most of all Stephen Varcoe as Time.
The recording, from 1982, gives me no problems at all, and the liner essay, by Watkins Shaw, is downright good. Don't let the work's title put you off it. The real triumph here is the triumph of beauty and pleasure."
A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 10/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"DO NOT BE SURPRISED IF YOU HAPPEN TO HEAR SOME OLD TUNES GEORGE HAD ON HIS SHELF; FOR THERE SURELY CANNOT BE ANYTHING WRONG WITH STEALING FROM YOURSELF!
George Frederick Handel(1685-1759) was an international German who wrote like an Italian and became a naturalized Englishman in 1726. During the 10 years from 1720 to 1730, Handel was to London what Lully had been to Paris. At the Royal Academy of Music he directed, engaged the singers, and wrote 15 successful operas.
One might say that he was forced into writing oratorios, supposedly because 'The Beggar's Opera' came to London, and it was spicy, satirical, and off-color,and charmed the audiences. Italian opera was lampooned in the press, and Handel with it. He had to regain his prestige, and decided to do so by way of the oratorio. at which he became very successful. In fact the English Passion for the oratorio is largely due to Handel. From 1738 to 1751, he produced one each year. Handel's oratorios, more dramatic than any previously written, are like operas, but without scenery and costumes.
The 'Triumph of time and truth' was brought out by Handel in March 1757 at Covent Garden Theatre, London. It all began in 1712, and evolved over a period of 50 years, and ultimately drew from more than twenty of Handel's compositions. As to the character of the work, it draws from Handel's gentle, sometimes dream-like music as befits the unreality of the personages; and does not present a drama or penetrate deeply into each character. It contains a quantity of high quality music of much delight which can be appreciated for what it is without predispositon to seek in it some exalted experience.
There are 5 characterizations: Beauty (Gillian Fisher-soprano); Time(Stephen Varcoe-bass); Deceit(Emma kirkby-soprano);Pleasure (Ian Partridge-tenor);and Counsel or Truth(Charles Brett-countertenor). Beauty , admiring herself in a mirror, wishes she could arrest the passage of Time, whereupon Pleasure promises that her charms shall never fade. Counsel advises Beauty to follow Truth, warning that youth does not last. At this , Pleasure initiates a trial: Who shall give the victory, Pleasure, Beauty, Time or Counsel? In the midst of the arguments, Deceit intervenes. And so it goes!!! It's quite entertaining and not difficult to follow, and the music is delightful as Handel can be most of the time.
When I first became aware of this double disc from Hyperion records, the soloist's names impressed me greatly, for they are all notables in the area of vocal music. Consider the fact that this oratorio was recorded in London in October,1983, and all of them are still singing very well indeed!!!!! I have always been especially fond of the two sopranos: Gillian Fisher and Emma Kirkby; both have crystal-clear voices accompanied by excellent diction and accurate pitch. The men herein are just as accomplished. The London Handel Choir and London Handel Orchestra do a creditable job with the accompaniment and instrumental solos, and all of this pulled together very skillfully by the conductor Denys Darlow."
R. A. Garay | Santiago,Chile | 04/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"La obra coral de GFHandel nunca ha dejado de maravillarme
Su primera composición "El triunfo del tiempo y el desengaño" (1707) fue escrita en Roma, narra el triunfo del tiempo y la vberdad sobre las tentaciones del placer y la belleza.
Medio siglo pasa a ser su última obra coral, la nueva versión que tituló El Triunfo del Tiempo y la Verdad, con libreto en Inglés. Esta grabación esta maravillosamente concedida, creo que también vale la pena escuchar la versión en italina que la he encontrado bajo el sello Naxos, aunque de menor calidad que esta interpretación."