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Handel : Theodora

Handel : Theodora

29 May 2006
4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Handel : Theodora
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Format: Audio CD
Theodora is the only Handel oratorio in English apart from Messiah to deal with an explicity Christian subject. It was an unmitigated failure on its first performance but Handel attributed that to the fact that the Jewish audience would not tolerate a Christian story nor the female audience a virtuous one, although it was his own favourite and Winton Dean describes it as a "masterpiece from his Indian summer". The story is of a Christian Roman woman who is martyred for refusing to worship pagan gods. Somary uses modern pitch and intruments and follows Handel's own cuts by omitting five lesser arias and several recitatives; however, he also omits da capo repeats, meaning that the ornamentation of arias is limited although he introduces a few trillas and gruppetti. He avoids double-dotting but rhythms are well sprung. The final twenty minutes of music is especially sublime, despite the mediocrity of the libretto.

Look at how cheaply you can buy this masterpiece on Amazon Marketplace; even paying "full price" can be a snip. It is not the last word in authentic Handel performance - first choice remains with William Christie's recording of the celebrated Glyndebourne production; it is far less staid and features some truly stellar voices - but nor is it a makeshift stop-gap; the three women singers here were amongst the foremost Handel singers of their day and are more impressive than the men: John Lawrensen has an agile but rather nasal baritone and Alexander Young has a typically constricted "English" tenor but he also sings musically. The singers of the Amor Artis Chorale make the most of their many glorious choruses although the English Chamber Orchestra, already a most accomplished band who became even more so working later with Raymond Leppard, occasionally overwhelms the singers - but at least their playing is a pleasure even when that happens.
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A splendid recording of a wonderful work.
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