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'... all the solo voices are marvellously alert and sensitive. The choral singing and orchestral playing under Robert King is robust and stylish ...'

Handel and Milton -
with ROBERT ANDERSON

 

Handel l'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. (c) 2000 Hyperion Records Ltd.

This is a joyous production. Milton weighs differently from Jennens, author of Il moderato, in the scales of poetry. But the new millennium could do worse than pay attention to 'Moderation' whose task it is 'Mad mortals from themselves to save'. As proper companions she brings with her, says Jennens, sweet temp'rance, rosy health, contentment true, chaste love, happy life and crowds of smiling years. Such were the unexceptionable sentiments emanating from Gopsall in Leicestershire, where Charles Jennens was to build the county's grandest mansion, with organ designed by Handel and Rysbrack's statue of religion atop an ionic temple in the grounds. The house has been demolished, but its owner's memory lives on as librettist to four Handel masterpieces, most notably Messiah. Splenetic letters by Jennens suggests he did not always follow his own advice to

Keep, as of old, the middle way,
Nor deeply sad, nor idlest gay,
But still the same in look and gait,
Easy, cheerful and sedate.

Anthony Hicks is author of the admirable notes. He tells us that the idea of interweaving lines from Milton's two poems came originally from James Harris. Handel's commitment is clear in the vast majority of the forty-odd numbers. The first performance was on 27 February 1740, in the midst of an icy winter: 'Particular Care is taken to have the House secur'd against the Cold, constant Fires being order'd to be kept in the House till the Time of Performance'. Handel had a concerto grosso or organ concerto played before each of the three parts; here there is just a large chunk of the D minor Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 10 to launch the work. Handel made an odd division of the solo parts: L'allegro has soprano, tenor and bass, while Il penseroso is for soprano only (two on the CD). It may be said at once that all the solo voices are marvellously alert and sensitive. The choral singing and orchestral playing under Robert King is robust and stylish, musicianship winning easily over any quest for authenticity.

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Copyright © 8 October 2000 Robert Anderson, London, UK

 

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CD INFORMATION - HYPERION CDA 67283

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