Handel Song for St Cecilia's Day
Dryden’s Song for St Cecilia’s Day drew something special from Handel’s imagination in his 1739 setting. The great poem on the subject of music receives additional eloquence through vocal writing of masterly purpose and orchestral writing imbued with striking colours. The Edinburgh-based Ludus Baroque presents its qualities with unusual vividness in this spacious and measured performance under Richard Neville-Towle, with particular highlights in Rachel Moss’s ethereal flute solo, Christopher Suckling’s resonant cello and the gentle warmth of Jan Waterfield’s organ playing. In fact the whole choral and orchestral tableau is marvellously realised here in an acoustic that combines richness with presence.
Superb vocal solos, too, from Mary Bevan’s long-breathed soprano, benefiting from her dedication to textual meaning as well as her sweetness of tone; and from tenor Ed Lyon, who proves equally communicative with the text and in delicacy of expression, as well as convincingly martial where needed. Lyon is allotted the bonus of a much rarer work, the 1736 cantata Look Down, Harmonious Saint, a 1736 setting of Newburgh Hamilton originally intended to supplement a performance of Alexander’s Feast; it’s a less distinctive text than Dryden’s but well worth encountering. The 1739 Concerto Grosso, Op. 6 No. 7 too, is beautifully presented.