Handel: An Ode for St. Cecilia's Day

Handel: An Ode for St. Cecilia's Day

by The King's ConsortThe King's Consort


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Even if you think the big "Rule, Britannia!" mood is the way to go with Handel, give a chance to Robert King's version of the "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day," recorded with the King's Consort and its choir on the Hyperion label. Handel in this much-loved work set a poem in praise of music by John Dryden; between opening and closing stanzas that implicate music in the creation and the dissolution of the universe, Dryden penned evocative little portraits of individual instruments ("Sharp violins proclaim/Their jealous pangs and desperation/Fury, frantic indignation/Depth of pains, and height of passion/For the fair disdainful dame."). In a Baroque musical world that associated solo instrumental display primarily with the concerto form, setting this text was a tall order -- and one Handel filled magnificently. This reading separates itself sharply from those that give in to the irresistible forward momentum of Handel's music. King's instrumental sound is restrained, deliberate, and shaped into forms over time rather than delineating them crisply right out of the box. Early on in the performance, as for example in the long cello introduction to the "What passion cannot Music raise and quell!" section, you may find yourself wishing for a bit more oomph. But pay attention! King's approach brings out Dryden's texts in wonderful detail and highlights Handel's responses to lines like "Through all the compass of the notes it ran." And King sets the soloists front and center, which is right where Handel would have wanted them. They're a sharply contrasting pair that Handel himself would have loved; soprano Carolyn Sampson is a creamy-voiced soul who blends exquisitely into King's carefully sculpted instrumental textures, while tenor James Gilchrist blazes forth from his quiet surroundings in the stentorian trumpet aria. The choral textures build effectively to the final apocalyptic vision in which "Music shall untune the sky." An added bonus here is the inclusion of a rarely recorded Italian-language Cecilian-themed cantata, "Cecilia, volgi un sguardo," that Handel composed to fill out the evening for a performance of "Alexander's Feast." If you want ring-from-the-rafters Handel, King has plenty of competition out there. But with this precise, long-breathed "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" he has brought new life to a standard and offers plenty to interest even those enviable souls encountering this luscious ode to musical art for the very first time.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/12/2004
Label: Hyperion
UPC: 0034571174631
catalogNumber: 67463
Rank: 9738


  1. Ode for St Cecilia's Day (Song for St Cecilia's Day) for soloists, chorus & orchestra, HWV 76

    1. Overture: Larghetto, e staccato -
    2. Allegro -
    3. [Minuet]
    4. Recitative. From harmony, from heav'nly harmony
    5. Aria. When Nature underneath a heap
    6. Chorus. From harmony, from heav'nly harmony
    7. Aria. What passion cannot Music raise and quell!
    8. Aria and Chorus. The trumpet's loud clangour
    9. March
    10. Aria. The soft complaining flute
    11. Aria. Sharp violins proclaim
    12. Aria. But oh! What art can teach
    13. Aria. Orpheus could lead the savage race
    14. Accompagnato. But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder higher
    15. Solo and Chorus. As from the pow'r of sacred lays
  2. Cecilia, Volgi un Sguardo, cantata for soprano, tenor, strings & continuo, HWV 89

    1. Recitative. Cecilia, volgi un sguardo
    2. Aria. La Virtute è un vero nume
    3. Recitative. Tu, armonica Cecilia
    4. Aria. Splenda l'alba in oriente
    5. Recitative. Carco sempre di gloria
    6. Aria. Sei cara, sei bella -
    7. Aria. Un puro ardor -
    8. Aria. Sei cara
    9. Recitative. È ben degna di lode
    10. Duetto. Tra amplessi innocenti

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