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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 8 January 2017
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on 14 August 2013
He's my fave r.ave at the moment. The opening of Zadok the Priest is electrifying of course, but the rest of the stuff on this also transports you into a different more splendid world
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For many years I've been looking for my ideal version of Handel's great Zadok the Priest, and I'm somewhere near it at last. So far as this performance goes, I may actually have got there, all I miss in this account is a little more vividness in the recorded sound. As far as the rest of the disc goes, I have no complaints or reservations at all. The four coronation anthems are given this time in the sequence Zadok, Let thy hand be strengthened, The King shall rejoice and My heart is inditing. Opinions vary as to the appropriate order for them, but obviously if you take a different view of the matter it is very simple to sequence them however you think best. The balance of the disc is taken up with an earlier work, a birthday ode for Queen Anne, probably composed for that monarch's 48th birthday in 1713.

Back to Zadok. Please forgive a possible appearance of dogmatism if I say that the tempo is absolutely right. Cleobury's speed here is much as I remember it from the recording of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It may be faster than one is used to, but there is a very good reason for it. Even at this speed, that spine-tingling orchestral introduction takes a full minute and 20 seconds to reach the great choral chords, and it measures out the tread of the monarch and consort, one stately pace to every four notes, as they advance towards the altar steps in Westminster Abbey, the choral outburst coming as they arrive at them. The choral tone here is very full and grand. I would have been interested to know whether Cleobury has used a larger chorus at this point than later - on one occasion Handel is known to have had 500 performers in Zadok. There are certainly not 500 here, and Handel's choral writing can convey an impression of multitudes even with a smallish choir. From this point on the chorus is appropriately small, clear in its diction and even, to my delight, producing a trill on `ever'. The other three anthems are beautifully done and beautifully recorded. There are various Alleluias in the first three including Zadok, and here, as in the great chorus in Messiah, Handel scans the word sometimes as All-e-LU-ia and sometimes as All-eh-EH-lu-IA. He learned the latter way of doing it from Purcell, and 150 years after Handel's anthems Brahms uses it again in his great Triumphlied celebrating the battle of Sedan.

The words to the birthday ode are by Ambrose Phillips. They are the usual sycophantic rubbish, but `twas ever thus. In days of old such toweringly great poets as Horace and Pindar had turned out equally wince-making sentiments, they just expressed them a lot better. The music is another matter, being simply exquisite. I have been familiar with these three soloists in Handel for a couple of years now, and what a pleasure it is to listen to such perfect singing and perfect sense for the composer's style. The opening number is a heavenly duet for counter-tenor and trumpet. I was very let down at not seeing the trumpeter credited in the liner. It may be Crispian Steel-Perkins (it's good enough to be him) but we are not told. The choir of King's, the Academy of Ancient Music and the director need no introduction by now, and are at their superlative best throughout.

The liner-note, by Anthony Hicks, is helpful, informative and readable, and is given in German and French as well as in English, as are the texts to the music. The recording is really very good too, except that I was eager for just that last ounce of `presence' at the start of Zadok that would have made this disc absolutely perfect for me. The set dates from 2001 I see, so perhaps it will be reissued sometime with a little remastering, fulfilling one of my remaining aspirations in this life.
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on 2 February 2015
My only other recording of the Coronation Anthems is the classic 1960s Sir David Wilcox King's College Chapel recording on Decca which still offers much to enjoy as a performance and the sound holds up pretty well, but this more modern King's digital album, with fine soloists and the Academy of Ancient Music, inspirationally directed by Stephen Cleobury is captured in even more vividly glowing sound. Other reviewers here have referred to this disc as a benchmark recording and it is easy to hear the reasons why. If I was still in the market searching for a single recording I would stop at this one as it pulls out all the stops! The music for Queen Anne's 48th birthday is an interesting filler on the disc and the notes are excellent in giving the background to this piece, given that Her Majesty's health took one of her characteristic indispositions and the intended birthday concert was cancelled and there is no extant record of the piece ever being performed again for the Queen. Highly recommended!
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on 27 July 2004
This recording of the Handel Coronation Anthems from 1727 is just about the best there is on CD at the moment. King's College Cambridge choir is rightly celebrated as probably the best cathedral choir in Europe if not the world. What sticks out here is the clarity of the diction of the singers, and the beautifully shaped lines that Stephen Cleobury manages to tease from the choir and the Academy of Ancient Music, who record the anthems here for the first time.
That said, the major recommendation of this CD comes from a ravishing performance of the little known birthday ode that Handel wrote for Queen Anne in 1713. Probably unperformed in Handel's lifetime (Queen Anne was ill apparently at the occasion when this was to be performed), there is more than a echo of Purcell whom Handel certainly admired and whose music he knew well. Eternal Source of Light Divine has only been recorded twice - both with James Bowman singing the glorious alto part. Whilst the recording by King and Bowman on Hyperion was superb, Robin Blaze sings the opening aria with poise, panache and delightful delicacy. Together with the other solists Michael George and Susan Gritton, Blaze makes this music jump out at you with its freshness and melifluous shape.
Once bitten by the majesty of this music how can anyone resist Handel's power to move the senses ?
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on 24 March 2002
King's have entirely done Handel justice. Zadok in particular is worth buying the CD for alone, with the suspense of the introduction heightened for full effect. I advise clearing the area and turning up the volume.
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on 19 August 2015
In my review of the David Willcocks recording I said how beautifully these anthems had been sung. This performance is by the same choir, but of much later date, and a good one for comparison because it features boy trebles (not women sopranos) as was the case in the original performance in 1727. However, I find I cannot compliment it in the same way: the treble line, so important in these, is often submerged by a too heavy tenor/bass line, and the anthems as a whole are too punchy and proceed at too fast a pace for my taste; thus they compare unfavourably with those of Willcocks. I have the original issue of these (1968), which includes the just as beautifully sung Chandos Anthem No.9. If you can find a copy of this first issue I do recommend it.
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on 26 December 2013
Stunning! Uplifting! Superb! Highly recommended. Purchased to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth !!'s Coronation, I could not have chosen a better recording
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on 23 May 2013
Fantastic CD. I bought it to listen to to help me get my timings etc as the choir I am in was performing it.
Brilliant CD worth listening to just for the sake of it.
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on 24 June 2008
Benchmark recording of both the anthems and the Ode which is a delicious treat. Even though the Hyperion CD of the Ode is good this is far better.
To quote from a review by David Vickers on this recording comparing it to the earlier Robert King recording on Hyperion: "Robin Blaze's superb singing in the slow opening duet with natural trumpet is a highlight of the Hyperion disc, comfortably equaling James Bowman's exquisite collaboration with Robert King. Yet Cleobury's performers are on more glittering form throughout the entire piece than Robert King's, and considered as a whole this new version supplants the Hyperion version as the benchmark recording. It cannot be suggested that any recording is eternally definitive, yet there need be no desperate requirement for another version of either the anthems or the ode in the near future. You need no other version of these works." This is the definite recording of these works.
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