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John W Barker
American Record Guide, January 2010

This is a concert on April 19, 2009, in the Marktkirche in Halle, Germany. That was the church where Handel was baptized and probably took his early organ lessons. The occasion was a double commemoration. It marked, of course, the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death. But it was also intended to evoke an earlier commemoration of the composer’s demise (its 25th anniversary) in the form of five concerts in the spring, four of them in Westminster Abbey (where Handel lies buried).

The Abbey concerts involved some 200 performers (the march to Handelian gigantism was already on the way), whose number could be matched only by one-third that total in 2009. In addition, this one concert could only sample what was offered in 1784. We have three complete works: the familiar Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest; the Dettingen Te Deum; and the Chandos Anthem No. 4, O Sing unto the Lord a New Song. And there are excerpts from the oratorios Esther, Saul, and Israel in Egypt, as well as from the Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline and the Utrecht Jubilate.

Arman, an established conductor at the Halle Festival, is an experienced choral director whose work on records has impressed me over the years. He welds his expansive forces here (four choirs, two orchestras) into tidy entities: the giant chorus is thoroughly disciplined, and the two period-instrument groups cohere well, notably in the wind playing. Arman does cheat, however, by replacing solo voices with choral sections as much as possible. He has only his bass stand out front, in the Te Deum; his fetching soprano and his tenor sing brief solos from the choral ranks in the Anthem and the Israelfinale.






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