This has long been thought of as the first English Oratorio. It is the first Oratorio by Handel to include a vast amount of music for chorus. However Esther did not start out as an Oratorio. It began life as a masque that Handel composed and then revised into a Biblical subject. This glorious recording of the complete work is the original version of Esther written by Handel. Later editions by Handel would tighten up the score so that it moved quicker, but here this version with its dramatic construction takes its time to explain itself.
But Christopher Hogwood with the Academy of Ancient music has ventured to tackle the mammoth task of recording the work how Handel originally perceived it. And as always using authentic instruments. This takes us closer to the heart of the times of the compositions origin.
Anthony rolfe Johnson and Patrizia Kwella is the Persian King and his Jewish wife. They perform beautifully And David Thomas is the savage Haman. And Ian Partridge gives a good performance as Mordecai. Emma Kirkby is a joy as an Israelite woman. She brings her beautiful voice that is full of enchantment to this part. Also on the recording is the Westminster Cathedral Boys Choir who adds texture and are expertly led by chorus master David Hill.
The piece "who calls my parting soul" with Kwella and Rolfe Johnson is a fine example of emotional expression, and the Finale of the work is a large choral scene with plenty of harmonic resource and instrumental colour. There is the lovely aria with solo oboe and strings and the lively soprano solo with harp. There are echoes of the water music with the pompous horns and chorus in parts of the composition.
It is a very long Oratorio spread over two discs. But it is an epic composition with great musical expression.
The recording is digital from 1985 and the sound and dynamics are excellent. This is a fine release and the performance, and composition is excellent.