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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Recording of the the Complete Chandos Anthem, 3 Feb 2011
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Uenna (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Chandos Anthems (Audio CD)
After years of patiently waiting it was with the greatest joy that I spied this cd box set of the complete Chandos anthem on Amazon, hitherto, most of the CDs have been excepts or incomplete. This is one of the best works of Handel commissioned by James Brydges the then Earl of Carnavon who later acquired the title the first Duke of Chandos for performance in the church adjoining his Estate. Written for solo and choral voices with string accompaniment (without violas), solo wind instruments (mainly Oboe and Bassoon), and Organ continuo. Handel excelled in these anthems with texts taken from the Psalms, mainly the old version of the Psalter as preserved in the Book of Common Prayer and the metrical version of Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady. There are now Morden publications of individual anthems by Novello.

My father who introduced me to Handel while I was still a babe in the crib, had been after me for years to find him the complete collection of Chandos anthem. Imagine my joy when I acquired this and could share it with him while he was recovering from a recent illness. It was a heavenly gift and you only have to listen to them to know why. My family and I are enjoying this collection as we deepen our appreciation of this gifted composer Handel. Amazon has listed the content of the various cds as well as listing mp3 samples of all the anthems, a quick listen will clarify any lingering doubts you may have about acquiring this box set. My thanks to Harry Christopher (conductor) and the Sixteen Choir and Orchestra for the beautiful rendition of the anthems and to Chandos records ltd for producing the complete recording. The recording is all DDD.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TELL IT OUT AMONG THE HEATHEN, 5 Oct 2008
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DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Chandos Anthems (Audio CD)
Newman Flower's great biography of Handel mentions `the twelve Chandos anthems'. There are 11 here, that number is explicitly confirmed in the liner note, so I suppose it must be 11, whatever Flower had in mind. The anthem was a specifically English musical form, tracing its descent apparently to the unaccompanied motets of an earlier era. It gave a role to the church choir in the latter half of certain services, and anthems came to be accompanied by either organ or small orchestra. Handel's association with the Earl of Caernarfon, later Duke of Chandos, seems to have come about through the Duke's social pretentiousness. He amassed great wealth dishonestly, and used it to build his palace Cannons at Edgware. He acquired paintings for ostentation, and he seems to have acquired Handel in much the same spirit. Their association appears to have been cordial but brief, just over 12 months in 1718-19. Flower says nothing about the occasions for which the anthems were composed, and the liner note suggests that little is actually known. They are mostly 20 minutes in length, although two stretch to nearly half an hour. The orchestra consists of strings without violas plus an oboe, a bassoon and a couple of recorders. The first 6 anthems are for 3-part chorus lacking altos, the others having 4 or 5 parts, not always including altos. The texts are from the Psalms in the Book of Common Prayer version, except in two cantatas where the rhyming versions of Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady are used.

The Sixteen were already known to me in Handel from their fine Samson. However I have just been admiring them on their own in Palestrina, and I had to hear them in Handel again, because for me Handel is simply the greatest stylist of the voice who ever set words to music. It was also an opportunity to acquire and study the Chandos anthems as a complete set. Most of the music goes to the chorus, but there is plenty of solo and ensemble work, with the tenor having the lion's share. They seem to me to differ from Bach's cantatas not only in having their focus strongly concentrated on the voices rather than on instruments but also in having greater internal unity. Cantatas are to set texts for specific liturgical occasions, and are a string of separate `numbers'. As I understand it, the composer could assemble his own text for an anthem, and these anthems are units that break down into smaller subdivisions. Indeed the first anthem does not seem to me to subdivide in any way at all after the orchestral introduction, although there are breaks at six other points. Except for #9, where the first chorus has a lengthy `integral' prelude, each is preceded by a short `sonata' in slow-quick format - this is called a `sinfonia' at anthem 10, a distinction with no difference that I can detect. Arias, or detached solos and ensembles if arias is not the right word, are without da capo repetitions, and there is very little in the way of recitatives or accompagnati.

The chorus here are as superb as elsewhere, the modest but important orchestral parts are immaculate, the recording from 20 years ago is fine basically, and I like the soloists without exception. Right at the start of the first anthem Partridge is recorded in disconcertingly close focus with, as luck would have it, a long sustained `O' that will test how well you like his tone. It suits me fine, the focus adjusts almost immediately, and surely he is both a great singer and a great artist. That said, the performance calls for no more comment. The Sixteen do very well indeed, of course, in conveying depth and strength of tone even in 3-part writing - but whose is the true credit for that? Beecham tells us, if we even need telling: there has been no music since Handel's time that even feebly rivals his for grandeur and build of choral tone. However there is another aspect to Handel's vocal writing that seems to me at least as important, and one that receives less notice. I may call it the vocal rhetoric. By this I do not mean the `effects', although there are a few of those even here. The `snares fire and brimstone' of the second anthem are not treated pictorially, more as just a musical exclamation at such phenomena. However the earthquake and the thunder in #10 are spectacular to this day, I can almost literally see the lightning, and it was surely the capacity to do this kind of thing with such slender resources that led Mozart to say that Handel was the master of them all. Still, I came back to it - there is a deeper characteristic to Handel's musical rhetoric.

Listen attentively to the word-setting just as a technique. Observe the resourcefulness in the matter of repetition, with the musical phrases constantly varied and often the words repeated to different music entirely. Note the combining of phrases, the shortening, the rearrangements, and the associated stylistic features like the changes of pace, stops and starts, and irregular phrase-lengths. It is something entirely without parallel. It takes word-setting out of the ordinary realm of finding music that will express the mood and reflect the spoken rhythm of the words. Speech is no longer what governs this musical utterance, the utterance has become the province of a purely musical design.

This is all done with haughty ease and naturalness, and it was the kind of thing that led Haydn, on his last triumphant visit to London and at the height of his own great powers, to lament that Handel made him feel a novice. Understand this aspect of Handel's style and you will understand his melody better too. Hanslick, superficial as usual, deplored the lack of a freer modern melodic idiom in Handel, and indeed it seems to me that the entire reaction against him, partly caused by travesties in performance and partly by the appalling oratorio tradition that purported to be his legacy, led to the European musical culture as a whole losing contact with his special idiom and excellence. Tovey for one keeps talking about `Bach and Handel' when all he means is Bach. Beethoven had different ideas, and now that a generation or two has emerged from this era of heresy perhaps we can hear Handel with purified ears and begin to appreciate why Beethoven pronounced him the greatest composer who ever lived.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete Chandos at last, 26 Sep 2011
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D. Batten "Staro Fan" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Handel: Chandos Anthems (Audio CD)
I'd had odd anthems on well used cassette and cd and had been looking for the complete set when up popped this and it is absolutely everything I could have hoped and wished for. I'm no musicologist or clever person with words but the singing is crisp - can hear the words clearly - the orchestra plays sympathetically and empathetically complementing the singing rather than competing with it as one so often finds. I'm just so glad to have it in my collection and no-one will be borrowing it as I shall be worried they'll love it as much as I do and forget to return it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Handel's magnificent 11 in 1, 11 July 2014
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This review is from: Handel: Chandos Anthems (Audio CD)
Sublime recording! Terrific soloists (Dawson, Partridge, Kwella, George and one of my all time favourite countertenors, James Bowman) accompanied by the crisp precision of the Sixteen Choir and Orchestra under the baton of the talented Harry Christophers.
A must have for, not just Handelians, but any classical music fan.
Thanks to Chandos for putting all of these Anthems together in one package.
Treat yourself. You won't be disappointed!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Chandos Anthems, 25 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Handel: Chandos Anthems (Audio CD)
The recordings are very good, sound reproduction is brilliant. I would recommend this compact disc to anyone looking for a collection of the Chandos Antems
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