- Judas Maccabaeus, oratorio, HWV 63
Handel: Judas Maccabeusby Johannes Somary
Little on the outside packaging of this album, other than the names of the soloists, tells the buyer that the music was originally recorded in 1971. First released by the Vanguard label, the performance was well done in the first place and has had a durable life in budget reissues. The buyer should know what he or she is getting -- a thoroughly old-school Handel performance, with all the positives and negatives that description implies. The bad news comes in the form of plummy, vibrato-rich sound from the Amor Artis Chorale under chorus mater John McCarthy and Swiss-American conductor Johannes Somary, which makes Handel sound like Brahms -- you don't have to be a devotee of historical-instrument performance to feel that singing Handel this way clashes with the bright colors that are intrinsic to the music. The orchestra itself turns in fine performances, warm but restrained, with nicely active continuo realizations by Harold Lester (not at all a given in 1971). The real attraction is the set of four soloists, all British veterans, who capture the splendidly ceremonial quality of the arias in this oratorio, one of those Handel works in which drama falls by the wayside in favor of public spectacle. Especially precious is the rich, stately voice of Welsh contralto Helen Watts in the small role of the Israelite man -- hear the superlatively controlled "Father of Heaven" (CD 2, track 14). The steely resolve of soprano Heather Harper in keeping things on track in some of Handel's tougher long runs is also impressive. The reissue is cheaply done, with editing errors in the booklet, and sonics were never Vanguard's strong point in the first place. Better choices are available for a budget "Judas Maccabeus," but fans of any of the soloists will find them in top form.
- Release Date:
- Musical Concepts
Performance CreditsJohannes Somary Primary Artist
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