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LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Handel: The Triumph of Time & Truth
WORKS: The Triumph of Time & Truth
PERFORMER: Sophie Bevan, Mary Bevan (sopranos), Tim Mead (countertenor),Ed Lyon (tenor), William Berger (bass); Ludus Baroque/Richard Neville-Towle


In 1757 Handel revisited a work he had written 50 years earlier to lyrics by Cardinal Benedetto Pamphilj. A lifetime separated the elderly composer from the ‘caro sassone’ who had dazzled Pamphilj, composing Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno alongside psalm settings, cantatas and serenatas for the chapels, gardens and private theatres of the Roman aristocracy. The Triumph of Time and Truth was a plumper, sturdier, Anglicised version of a lean and brilliant original, upholstered with the descriptive choral writing that had provided Handel with a second career when London tired of Italian opera. His lyricist was Thomas Morell, librettist of Judas Maccabeus, Theodora and Jephtha, and, most pertinently for this allegory, adviser to William Hogarth in the preparation of Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty (1753).

Historians have questioned how active a part Handel played in The Triumph but Hogarth’s principles of fitness, variety, simplicity and intricacy are audible. Richard Neville-Towle’s spirited recording with Ludus Baroque captures these qualities, and though Beauty (Sophie Bevan) turns from the gaudy temptations of Pleasure (Ed Lyon) and Deceit (Mary Bevan) more meekly than her delirious Roman counterpart, she is no frump. Both Bevans sing with lustrous tone, natural agility and exquisite decorations, Lyon and William Berger (Time) with taut elegance and Tim Mead (Counsel) with immaculate poise. Though Neville-Towle’s tempos sometimes waver, this is a performance of great warmth, with infectious solos from Jan Waterfield on harpsichord and organ, characterful strings, oboes, recorders, bassoons and corni da caccia, and a pleasingly natural, expressive choir.


Anna Picard