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Handel: Coronation Anthems

Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Handel
Coronation Anthems Nos 1-4; Te Deum in D
Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
Alpha Classics ALPHA 868   68:05 mins

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Hervé Niquet and his period choir and orchestra Le Concert Spirituel give us a luminous vision of Handel’s celebratory anthems. Yet even as Niquet immerses us in grandeur, he sometimes chooses his own ideas over the interpretive hints in Handel’s scoring.

Niquet’s fluid lines heighten the drama by drawing out crucial words in long, upswelling crescendos, punctuated at climaxes by pungent brass and woodwinds. This approach suits the toggling between joy and solemnity of Handel’s 1743 Te Deum, as does Niquet’s stately pace and his choir’s euphony. His performers apply dynamics with authority and precision, fashioning an intricate fabric. But Handel’s Coronation Anthems ask for warmth and movement rather than grand, static representation. Focused as he is on fitting music to text, Niquet passes over the orchestral drama: in Zadok the Priest, the first movement’s instrumental introduction, instead of softly billowing to crest as the choir enters, putters along somewhat aimlessly. Niquet clips off exclamations like ‘God save the King’, which makes them sound clinical rather than expressing an outburst of collective feeling.

With its Charpentier-esqe grand motet reading – we hear lots of crisp dotting, timbral contrasts and word-led rhythms – Niquet’s version of Handel’s anthems is sweeping and original, but not always à propos.

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Berta Joncus