<< -- 2 -- Robert Anderson CLASSICAL ALLUSIONS
Both the Milton poems delight in classical allusion, and we are instantly
face-to-face with Cerberus, the three-headed dog of hell. But L'allegro
abounds in numbers as entrancing as the tenor aria and chorus 'Haste
thee, nymph, and bring with thee'. Handel makes delicious use
of a carillon in the soprano aria 'Or let the merry bells ring round'.
Jennens will not allow the cheerful man Milton's 'Spicy Nut-brown Ale',
when young and old come out to play at the end of Part 1, but Handel packs
them off to bed most tenderly.
In part 2 Jennens has Milton abandon the countryside for urban life.
Handel marshals trumpets and drums, and the man of good cheer holds forth
to the effect that 'Populous cities please me then', while
the chorus relishes 'the busy hum of men'. It might be thought
that L'allegro has all the best tunes. By no means. There is
incomparable music for Il penseroso too, but nothing is finer than
its final chorus, to the words 'These pleasures, Melancholy give'.
At the premiere Handel gave an organ extemporisation on the fugal subject
taken up by the choir. The same procedure is followed here, but whether
to full Handelian effect we shall never know. The chorus is among Handel's
grandest. In Part 3 Handel starts with the bass soloist as protagonist for
moderation; but Jennens's main inspiration was to give Handel his one
opportunity for a soprano/tenor duet to fine words partly filched from Shakespeare's
Tempest, 'As steals the morn upon the night'. Thus
Jennens reconciles joys that delude not with a melancholy by no means loathed.
Copyright © 8 October 2000
Robert Anderson, London, UK
CD INFORMATION - HYPERION CDA 67283
PURCHASE THIS DISC FROM AMAZON
PURCHASE THIS DISC FROM CROTCHET
& Vision home
Andrew Imbrie >>