A ZIPPY ZION- A TEDIOUS TE DEUM
In the last months of 1738, after having devoted 35 years of his life to opera, Handel was compelled by many and varied circumstances to change from being primarily an opera composer to becoming a composer of the English oratorio. Around that time he was given the opportunity to compose the long and magnificant anthem 'The Ways of Zion Do Mourn' which was first performed at the funeral of Queen Caroline in August of 1738. He, himself, was so fond of this anthem, he later made it the beginning section of his oratorio "Israel in Egypt", after making a few changes and additions.
The Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner gives an excellent performance, particularly chorally. His tempos are always a bit 'rushed' but I like it nonetheless, since his singers are able to handle the fast diction required to implement the songs. Instrumentally it was very 'bright' and well played. His soloists were good, but surprisingly undramatic, almost bland in their approach to this music. Surprising, because the Orchestra and Chorus maintained a high level of excitement. However, all listeners may not feel this way about it, for the solo voices were correct, pleasant with flawless diction. This was recorded in 1978.
If you preferred a more dramatic approach soloistically, the 1995 recording by King's College Choir with Cleobury and some WONDERFUL soloists:Gritton-Chance-Bostridge and Varcoe AND if you prefer boy sopranos and male altos, this is the recording for you!!!!It is the complete "Israel in Egypt".
Handel's 19th century biographer, Friedrich Chrysander, noted that Handel's Utrecht 'Te Deum' closely followed Purcell's 1694 setting, although the two approaches are different. What the two share in common, though, are a common declamatory style, a feeling for instrumental color, and a lively response to the canticle text. The Utrecht 'Te Deum' consists of 11 choral movements in the course of which Handel provides the listener with effective variety in key sequence, in tonal color and in vocal texture. Almost throughout the 'Te Deum' brief, but expressive passages for solo voices and solo instruments further enliven Handel's score.
Now as to Nikolaus Harnoncourt's interpretation of 'Te Deum', I did not like it for the following reasons: it was far too heavy and operatic for my taste; instrumentally belaboured in 'spots', much too loud percussion and poor singing on the part of soloists: Felicity Palmer (too operatic)- Marjana Lipovsek (contalto) a countertenor would have been much better with a lighter and not so overbearingly HEAVY sound. The men were OK, but not spectacular. This recording was made in 1984; I think Harnoncourt would have done this a lot differently today. It was not BAD, just didn't suit me!!! You may like it fine!!!
There is 2 CD recording that includes several works of Handel on LONDON records (still available) that includes the 'Te Deum' sung by the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, recorded 1979. It is excellent!!! Great choir, great soloists, and pleasing interpretation.