A Handel Celbration: Coronation Anthems

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WORKS: Coronation Anthems; Solomon – The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba; Organ Concerto in F; Semele – excerpts; Salve Regina
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Alastair Ross (organ); The Sixteen/ Harry Christophers (BBC Proms, 2009)


In truth, The Sixteen’s 2009 Handel Prom filmed here celebrated not one but two anniversaries: 250 years since George Frideric’s death, and the choir’s 30th birthday. Emotions were evidently riding high.

From the sprightly bounce of the Queen of Sheba’s ‘Arrival’ to a gloriously theatrical concluding ‘Zadok the Priest’, Harry Christopher’s crack team pulls out all the stops – literally, in the case of organist Alistair Ross, although his performance of the F major Organ Concerto, Op. 4 No. 4, exudes a rather mannered fastidiousness.

The programme bestows majesty writ large, anointed by three of the Coronation Anthems – including besides ‘Zadok’ a deliciously mellifluous and urbane ‘My heart is inditing’ which is billed here as a ‘bonus track’, since despite being part of the concert it was not included in the original BBC Two television broadcast.  

However, if the pomp and regal circumstance undoubtedly impress, Christophers’s tender shaping of the sighing phrase, his expressive dynamic palate, combined with an ear for orchestral detail, impress even more.

And stepping outside the Abbey, the crowning glory of the evening falls to Carolyn Sampson’s sexy Semele – ‘Endless pleasure’ a sassy endless pleasure indeed, and ‘O ecstasy of happiness’ a virtuosic tour de force revelling in self-fixated coquetry. (Sampson’s ‘Salve Regina’, another ‘bonus’ track, is equally beguiling.) 


In an interval interview Christophers improbably admits to driving home from concerts singing along to the Rolling Stones. After this one, ‘Can’t get no satisfaction’ could surely not have sounded more wide of the mark! Paul Riley