GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL|
Six CHANDOS ANTHEMS
Helen Boatwright, soprano / Charles Bressler, tenor
Jerrold Held - Donald Miller, bass
Collegium Musicum of Rutgers University
Conductor Alfred Mann
Six Chandos Anthems|
on a Double-CD Album.
DISC 1 - BMC 37
DISC 2 - BMC 38
DISC 2 - BMC 38
When, in 1717 at the age of 32, Handel was invited to become composer-in-residence to the Duke of Chandos, he was highly qualified for a post which offered him all the stylish surroundings and quality of musicians expected of a wealthy patron. Handel had been brought up in Germany, assimilating the Germanic traditions of baroque music. He journeyed to Italy, where he mixed with all the currently fashionable Italian composers and musicians in Rome - at that time the "place to be" for any aspiring musician or serious music-lover. He then spent some time in England where he was able to assimilate the English traditions of Henry Purcell and the Chapel Royal composers.
Henry James Brydges, Duke of Chandos was, at first anyway, a worthy patron. He rose by force of personality, administrative ability and the favor of the Duke of Marlborough to become Paymaster of the Forces Abroad during the War of the Spanish Succession. The Paymaster was able to speculate with the monies he received, and by the time he left the post in 1713 Brydges had accumulated a fortune estimated at £600,000, a sum having in the year 1713 the same purchasing power as £58 million, or $95 million today. He was a lavish patron of the arts, enlarging his country home of Cannons, remodeling it in the baroque style, and sparing no expense in providing for himself and his family a residence the equal of any German prince. He lavished equal attention on the Cannons Estate Church of St Lawrence, rebuilding all save the tower and commissioning the most fashionable artists to decorate the interior with frescoes. It was in such surroundings that the Chandos Anthems would have been performed.
Handel's Chandos Anthems are truly little-known masterpieces. Overshadowed by operas and the Messiah, they certainly deserve a place in any CD collection. From the Psalms, Handel chose the Biblical texts himself, as he always preferred to do, and then molded the music to fit the mood and spirit of the words. Each anthem begins with a Sinfonia or Sonata. The body of each anthem consists of arias and choral movements, often inter-acting one with the other. The movements are never over-long or repetitive, always satisfying musically whilst constantly changing in mood. They are in general quiet, reflective pieces.
These truly wonderful performances by the Rutgers Collegium are superb in the quality of singing, both choral and solo, as well as the instrumental playing. Tempi are always perfectly suited to the mood of the texts and always allow the music time to unfold yet never dragging.
Technically this is one of the best choral recordings we have ever heard. Choir, soloists and instrumentalists are always in balance, every line of melody can be clearly distinguished and the whole blends perfectly. Diction, both from the choir and soloists, is crystal clear, such that the printed text hardly needs to be followed.
All in all, a wonderfully uplifting experience!
A brief illustrated biography chronicling
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