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Handel: Oratorios Box set


Price: £24.07 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
Includes FREE MP3 version of this album.
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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent performance, but ... 25 Dec 2011
By Y.P. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This budget set contains 4 previously issued CD sets:

Händel: Israel in Egypt (and 2 coronation anthems Zadok the Priest and The King Shall Rejoice) (2CD)
Jephtha (3CD)
Händel: Saul (3CD)
Handel: Solomon (2CD)

However, it does not give too much price break, and the libretto is *not* included. If the budget is of the greatest concern, and you don't already own any of these, all the libretti can be found at OperaGlass's website.

As for the performances, I haven't heard Israel in Egypt, but all others are top-notch. Reviews can be found at the links above.

Note that this performance of Israel of Egypt consists only 2 parts: Exodus and Moses' Song. The first part (Lamentation of the Israelites for the Death of Joseph), which was an adaptation of the Queen's funeral anthem to a new text, was omitted. For a complete 3-part version, Andrew Parrott's rendition can be highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great beauty in a small package 22 Aug 2013
By Alton Gray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Purchased this set at the same time as the one with the same picture and pink color by Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. Already had Solomon but my Jeptha had gotten damaged in a move and needed replacing so I went for the set and I am glad I did. Again great music, superbly performed and recorded. Not of fan of including part of Israel In Egypt and one other (Jeptha, I think) on the same disk. Never really like it when record companies do that to save bucks (how much could 1 extra CD in the pack cost anyway?) But since I rip the CDs onto a solid state hard drive (in lossless uncompressed flac format - no mangled mp3s please) so I can listen to the entire oratorio without interruption this has really become a non-issue and I mention it only so others will know, but I still urge you to get the set. My 5.1 system has a USB and plays music straight from the drive so I've found this a good option for multi-disk sets. Fantastic sound and fantastic music no matter how you play it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Outstanding Handel Anthology 4 Aug 2014
By Johannes Climacus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This anthology of Sir John Eliot's esteemed Handel oratorio recordings for the Phillips label (minus *Messiah*) is a must for Handelians and admirers of this conductor. Though the label is now defunct (assimilated to Decca/Universal), and this box, originally issued to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer's death has been technically discontinued, many new and used copies are still available at decent prices. Of course, you have to put up with the inevitable absence of librettos for the four works included, but given the high quality of these performances, few listeners are likely to complain. Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir sings with such perfect diction, balance and projection throughout, having the text at hand is not mandatory, even for those who are experiencing these great works for the first time.

Gardiner's 1984 studio version of *Solomon*, and his live recording of *Saul* from the 1988 Göttingen Festival are justly esteemed. In my estimation--and I have been collecting and listening to Handel recordings since my youth--these are among the very finest Handel recordings ever made. It is even more regrettable, therefore, that Gardiner makes some substnatial cuts in *Solomon*, preferring to conclude the work with "Praise the Lord," (as was common practice from the time of Beecham's infamous recording), and omitting one aria apiece for the Levite, Zadock, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. How any self-respecting Handelian could cut the Queen's entrance aria ("Every sight these eyes behold," so fetchingly done by Beecham) is beyond me, though perhaps Phillips imposed certain budgetary constraints (e.g., the entire work had to be presented on two CD's). That caveat aside, Gardiner's version of this work still stands as the criterion against which all newcomers shall be judged; he balances intimacy and majesty perfectly;, and that central panel of the Judgment Scene in Act II (omitted in its entirety by Beecham, who probably considered it beneath his dignity to countenance lines such as "Can I see my infant gored?") has never been presented with such poignant dramatic fervor than here. The Soloists, particularly Watkinson as the first-recorded mezzo Solomon (as per Handel's original intention) creates a character of almost uncanny sublimity, without a hint of sententiousness. The live performance of *Saul* is, in a word, terrific. Alistair Miles makes the central character chillingly believable--without overdoing the villany--and all of the other principals to complete justice to their respective roles (Ragin is a bit lightweight as David, but sings his harp aria with great tenderness).

*Jephtha* and *Israel in Egypt* are nearly as good; the qualifier is due in part to the overly dry acoustic in the former and the omission of Handel's original Part I (based on the Funeral Ode for Queen Caroline) from the latter. *Jephtha* bids fair to being the composer's greatest work--it is at any rate his most profound meditation on the human condition--and Gardiner's plumbs its depths more tellingly than any other (save perhaps for Somary's pioneering version for Vanguard, though in many respects it sounds dated from a stylistic point of view). Nigel Robson garnered some criticism over the years for his less than glamorous vocalism. Yet he virtually lives the part; his is a truly haunting portrayal of hubris brought low by tragedy. His rendition of "Waft her angels" will break your heart. Von Otter's scorching portrayal of Storge (Jephtha's wife) is also unforgettable. Lynne Dawson, too, is impressive as something more than a hapless victim; her Iphis manages to combine innocence and experience is just the right balance. The voice is vulnerable, but neither fragile-delicate nor petulant (like Somary's Reri Grist). Only Varcoe disappoints in the minor role of Zebul; the timbre of the voice is too light to provide suitable contrast with his brother, Jephtha. One is less disappointed then usual at the omission of his Act II aria. The choral singing, as always with this group, is magnificent--fully responsive to Handel's kaleidoscopic changes of mood, tempo, texture and tonality (often within the same piece, as with the famous "O Lord, how dark are Thy decrees"). Gardiner's digital *Israel in Egypt* from 1991 competes with his earlier Erato version, recorded before the conductor turned fully to period performance practice. The Erato version conveys the drama of the "plague" choruses in Part One and the grander of the celebratory anthems in Part Two, with greater immediacy, and the soloists sound marginally more confident; the later account is less forceful, more nuanced, with pronounced dance-rythms (where appropriate) and lighter textures overall. Listeners brought up on the old English Oratorio Tradition, might well prefer the earlier version, but the later one is ultimately more interesting (and far less bellicose than usual in this work). The choral singing, which was already outstanding in the Erato recording, is even finer in 1991--more responsive to the text, more expressive, more articulate.

The recorded sound varies in quality, but is never less than good, and truly splendid in the studio for *Solomon.* If you are just beginning to explore Handel's huge output in this genre beyond *Messiah*, this Gardiner box is a great place to start. If you are a veteran Handelian looking for alternative versions of favorite oratorios, or a follower the conductor, this can also be strongly recommended. There are four of Handel's greatest masterpieces here, four tremendous performances, and a reasonable price tag. Snap this up before it becomes unavailable or (as a "rare" item), too expensive to consider.
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