Handel: Coronation anthems; Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Coronation anthems; Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Michael George (bass); Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Academy of Ancient Music/Stephen Cleobury
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57140 2
Handel wrote his four Coronation anthems for the crowning of King George II and his consort Queen Caroline in Westminster Abbey on 11 October 1727. And one of them, Zadok the Priest, has been sung at every coronation service since. For me, at least, its introductory Italianate upper string arpeggios, its modulations and suspensions leading to the mighty, declamatory vocal entry with trumpets and drums, provide among the most exciting moments in late Baroque music.

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This new recording of the anthems includes an earlier Handel piece, an Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, Eternal Source of Light Divine, composed in 1713. The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, has teamed up with the Academy of Ancient Music in performances which are stylish and vigorous. Their keenest rivals are the Westminster Abbey choristers with the English Concert directed by Simon Preston, and the Choir of New College, Oxford, with The King’s Consort directed by Robert King. All three offer strong and colourful versions of these perennial favourites and choice, in the end, may simply depend upon what kind of choral sound you prefer and, crucially where the present version made in the reverberant King’s College is concerned, what kind of acoustic.

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For all-round satisfaction the New College version remains my strongest recommendation. But the newcomer is nonetheless enjoyable, and has the not inconsiderable advantage of an additional work of substance, whose performance fields a strong trio of soloists. Nicholas Anderson