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Handel: Chandos Anthems

Florie Valiquette (soprano), Nicholas Scott (tenor); Marguerite Louise Choir & Orchestra/Gaétan Jarry (organ) (Versailles)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Handel
Chandos Anthems
Florie Valiquette (soprano), Nicholas Scott (tenor); Marguerite Louise Choir & Orchestra/Gaétan Jarry (organ)
Château deVersailles CVS072   64:33 mins

Putting aesthetics first, director-organist Gaétan Jarry creates his own period version of Handel’s Chandos Anthems. Instead of Handel’s chamber choir, Jarry has five vocalists on each part; instead of Handel’s eight-instrument band, Jarry leads 17 period players; instead of a parish church, Jarry performs at the Royal Chapel of Versailles. The result is glorious.

Jarry fundamentally rethinks the original scores, as did indeed Handel. Tasked from 1717 by the Duke of Chandos to supply anthems, Handel briskly re-arranged his earlier compositions. Addressing this material, Jarry re-imagines textures, playing the Versailles chapel’s bright acoustic like an instrument. He makes Handel’s strict counterpoint lyrical, with long phrases and enriched doubling of vocal lines. His hefty continuo section erupts suddenly at climaxes. The euphony he coaxes from solos shared by voice and instrument, and the contrasts he creates between movements – intimate versus grand; spiky versus serene; rollicking compound meter versus stately duple meter – are stunning.

Solo vocalists enrich the mix: pure-toned Florie Valiquette brings vibrant colours to her sustained passages, and tenor Nicholas Scott pivots from chorister-style to bravura execution on demand. But all of Jarry’s wizardry can’t improve the organ voluntary he chose for his solo tracks –probably not by Handel.

Berta Joncus

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