ALBUM TITLE: Handel: Peace & Celebration
WORKS: Zadok the Priest; Let thy hand be strengthened; Concerto Grosso, Op. 3 No. 2 in B flat; My heart is inditing; Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (‘Eternal source of light divine’); The Kind shall rejoice
PERFORMER: Alex Potter (countertenor); Choir of Clare College, Cambridge; European Union Baroque Orchestra/Lars Ulrik Mortensen (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 711
This is the second disc of Handel’s music to reveal a happy conjunction of talent with Danish organist/director Lars Ulrik Mortensen and the European Union Baroque Orchestra. Here they are further joined by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and countertenor Alex Potter. The programme is an attractive one featuring the four anthems which Handel composed for the coronation of King George II in Westminster Abbey in 1727, the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne which he had written 14 years earlier, and the second in a set of six concertos published in London as the composer’s Op. 3.
Mortensen can be depended upon to bring out the graceful contours of Handel’s melodies, as you can hear in the lyrical Largo of the Concerto with its expressive oboe solo against an arpeggiated cello accompaniment. He also brings linear clarity to Handel’s fugal writing, though I enjoyed rather less the unseemly but currently fashionable haste with which he dispatches the Menuetto.
The Coronation Anthems come over pretty well. The Clare College Choir is homogeneous and mainly assured, though the technical balance does not always allow the voices to shine through the instrumental textures with sufficient radiance. I felt, too, that the expressive climax to the opening of Zadok the Priest was underplayed. Notwithstanding reservations, there is still much to enjoy in performances which are lively, stylish and affectionate.