Handel: Dettingen Te Deum; Te Deum in A

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Dettingen Te Deum; Te Deum in A
PERFORMER: Soloists; Alsfelder Vokalensemble, Concerto Polacco/Wolfgang Helbich
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554753
Recordings of Handel’s settings of this canticle remain few and far between. The new issue is therefore welcome and all the more so for being warmly responsive to Handel’s music, even if in the end it falls short of deserving an accolade. The more elaborate of the two settings of the Te Deum featured here is the one Handel prepared for celebrations of the British and Austrian victory over the French at Dettingen (Franconia) in 1743. I confess to having long thought it a dull work, having heard two dreadful performances of it during the Sixties. This version, along with one or two other recent encounters, makes me realise how wrong I was. The solo line-up is fairly strong with especially pleasing contributions from Mark Wilde and Dorothee Mields. Less polished are the upper strings of the Concerto Polacco instrumental ensemble whose responses, every now and again, sound lethargic and astringent. Simon Preston’s recording with the English Concert always fares better in this respect, but by and large this is an enjoyable account of the work. The A major Te Deum is even more of a rarity, and a delightful one with beguiling bassoon- and oboe-writing, especially in the ‘Vouchsafe, O Lord’ and in the ‘We believe that Thou shalt come’, whose beautiful opening later found its way into one of Handel’s Op. 3 Concertos. This is an earlier piece which Handel probably composed for the Chapel Royal in the mid-1720s. If there is another current recording of it then it is unknown to me and unrepresented in the latest catalogue. My preference remains with Preston where the Dettingen Te Deum is concerned, but the new issue can be recommended. Nicholas Anderson

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