Handel at Vauxhall, Vol. 1: Excerpts from operas by Handel, Arne, Hebden and Moult

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COMPOSERS: Arne,Handel,Hebden,Moult
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Handel at Vauxhall, Vol. 1
WORKS: Acis and Galatea – excerpts; Organ Concerto in B flat, Op. 4/2; Saul – Dead March; The Advice; The Melancholy Nymph; L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato – ‘As steals the morn upon the night’; Arne: Colin and Phoebe; Hebden: Concerto for Strings and Basso Continuo No. 1; Moult: Organ Improvisation in the style of John Worgan and Handel
PERFORMER: Kirsty Hopkins, Eleanor Dennis, Sophie Bevan (soprano), Charles MacDougall, Greg Tassell (tenor), Benjamin Bevan (baritone), Daniel Moult (organ); London Early Opera/Bridget Cunningham
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 428  

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From May to September, and to a soundtrack favouring Handel and Arne, 18th-century London’s Vauxhall Gardens promised al fresco delights and dalliances a-plenty. Bridget Cunningham’s re-imagining of the first part of a typical evening’s entertainment puts George Frideric centrestage, and sets the scene delectably with the flirtatious bustle of the Sinfonia to Acis and Galatea. Ending with ‘As steals the morn upon the night’ is a touch ironic, though, for a programme that weighs in at an ungenerous 48 minutes. The night is still young! And if – swathed in sackbuts and suitably sepulchral – the inclusion of the Dead March from Saul strikes an improbable note, it was apparently something of a Vauxhall favourite. 

The Gardens’ celebrated organ, an instrument boasting a carillon and ‘a symphony of singing birds’, is acknowledged in Daniel Moult’s nimble account of Handel’s B flat Organ Concerto Op. 4 No. 2 (complete with startling cadenza and lively embellishment), while a delicious airy instrumental chirruping underpins Kirsty Hopkins’ ‘Hush, ye pretty warbling choir’. Eleanor Dennis, on the other hand, sounds a touch matronly in the Arne Pastoral; but then, pining for a shepherd named Colin might bring out the inner cardigan in the bubbliest of nymphs!

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Paul Riley