Handel: L’Allegro, il Peneroso ed il Moderato

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Carus
ALBUM TITLE: Handel: L’Allegro, il Peneroso ed il Moderato
WORKS: L’Allegro, il Peneroso ed il Moderato
PERFORMER: Maria Keohane; Julia Doyle (soprano); Benjamin Hulett (tenor); Andreas Wolf (bass); Cologne Chamber Choir; Collegium Cartusianum/Peter Neumann
CATALOGUE NO: 83.395

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Handel gives an Enlightenment twist to John Milton’s poetry of the humours in this philosophical ode, set by Handel in 1740. To the sociable, sanguine L’Allegro and the solitary, melancholy Penseroso, librettist Charles Jennens added Il Moderato, epitome of ‘the middle way/nor deeply sad, nor idly gay’. These are not characters but characteristics, not conveyed by individual singers but vigorously debated by soloists and chorus and illustrated with a battery of obbligato instrumental solos.

Musically, one might expect a slackening of tension with the introduction of Il Moderato. Instead, there is a deepening of beauty, culminating in the soprano and tenor duet ‘As steals the morn upon the night’ and the handsome chorus ‘Thy pleasures, Moderation, give’.

Peter Neumann’s recording with Collegium Cartusianum and the fresh-voiced Cologne Chamber Choir is based on the London performances of January and February 1741 and takes the opening of the G major Op. 6 Concerto Grosso as its overture. Neumann is no purist: Part 1 even features a celesta! But this is an affectionate, stylish performance, one highlight being the excellent playing from flautist Marten Root in ‘Sweet bird, that shun’st the noise of folly’.

Sopranos Maria Keohane and Julia Doyle share a shivery, silvery tone and neat coloratura, and Benjamin Hulett delivers a suave reading of the siciliano ‘Let me wander, not unseen’. Another highlight is provided by baritone Andreas Wolf, who leads an infectious chorus in praise of urban life (‘Populous cities’).

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Anna Picard