Handel at his most beguiling requires a deft touch, a steady hand on the tiller, and voices of lucent expressiveness, not too many frills, plenty of character.
This clear and immediate 2-disc box-set fits the bill to perfection. Under Robert King - whose exhaustive series of Purcell recordings proved essential listening - and the King`s Consort, his five soloists are virtually without flaw.
Rogers Covey-Crump (some name!) is delightful as Damon, a character not in Ovid`s tale from which the libretto for this oratorio is taken. John Mark Ainsley`s Acis is suitably heroic, while American soprano Claron McFadden - a singer new to me - charms the ear and the heart as Galatea. If she wasn`t quite right, the whole thing would be pointless. She`s more than quite right, she`s a tonic, a fresh and lovely performance by a singer I wish we heard more of.
Michael George makes the most of the bass role of Polyphemus - essentially the same Cyclops whom Odysseus and his shipmates fool in Homer`s epic. Robert Harre-Jones as Chorus is as excellent as the others on this superb recording.
I`ve come to love this rather modest "Greek-lit" oratorio, its mythological setting for me being an extra bonus. Handel almost anticipates the pure line of Gluck in some passages.
With its near-Blakean Spanish painting adorning the cover, printed lyrics inside, King`s booklet notes a boon, as well as an extra twelve-minute cantata sung by Ainsley, this is a set to treasure.