Handel: Dettingen Te Deum

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COMPOSERS: Cherubini,Handel,Haydn
LABELS: Carus
WORKS: Handel: Dettingen Te Deum (arr. Mendelssohn); Haydn: The Storm; Cherubini: Chant sur la mort de Joseph Haydn
PERFORMER: Dominique Labelle (soprano), Thomas Cooley, Colin Ainsworth (tenor), William Berger (bass); NDR Choir; Festspiel Orchester Göttingen/Nicholas McGegan
CATALOGUE NO: 83.358

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As well as his contribution to the revival of interest in JS Bach with his performance of the St Matthew Passion in Berlin in 1829, Mendelssohn showed an interest in Handel, too; his arrangement of Acis and Galatea has already been released on the Carus label.

Now comes the Dettingen Te Deum, a big, celebratory English-language setting Handel wrote after the allied victory over French forces at Dettingen in 1743, and which was first performed in the Chapel of St James Palace in London that same year.

As with Acis, Mendelssohn feels obliged to add to Handel’s orchestration – flutes, clarinets, horns and a written-out organ part. No one would feel the need to do that nowadays, but as always Mendelssohn’s additions are carefully wrought; they even add a mysterious quality to the chorus ‘Der Engel Chor’ (all sung in German, as it was in 1831).

Nicholas McGegan secures a lithe and characterful account of the orchestral writing from his Göttingen Festival players, and the choral singing has plenty of vitality, though the recorded sound, while resonant, lacks breadth of space.

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The remaining works are also interesting. Haydn’s virtuosic cantata The Storm (again sung in German) is a piece of descriptive writing that impressed London audiences on his first visit to the UK in 1791, while Cherubini’s spare but delicate memorial tribute to Haydn, written when a false report of the composer’s death reached Paris, is a fine example of that neglected master’s imaginative and resourceful style. George Hall