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David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2012

In the thirty years following his initial use of the Acis and Galatea story, Handel made many adaptations, though he never directed the version best known today. It began in 1708 as a cantata composed in Italy; passed through its use as a miniature opera; became a masque with a new English libretto, and after being staged as a three-act theatre work using both English and Italian, it was shortened to two acts in the English language. And that was where the work came to rest. The scene was one of nymphs and shepherds—a topic adored by 18th century audiences—the love of the two leading characters, Acis and Galatea, being tested before all ends happily—well, sort of happy. Handel had, by the 1730’s, become a much-loved English composer, and in the late 19th century was hugely popular among the vast number of choral societies that sprang up in England. Taking audiences into a comfort zone was the stylistic aim of their performances, and that style persists today, though in recent years Handel has also become part of the movement that offers period instrument correctness. This long preamble leads me to the point where I can report that Gerard Schwarz’s performance uses a modern symphony orchestra—cut down in size—while the singing style is very much of the 20th century. The part of Damon is sung by a tenor as opposed to the present day casting for countertenor or soprano, which limits the tonal spread of voices. Dawn Kotoski was at the beginning of her career when the recording was made back in 1991, her portrayal of Galatea being of a rather fragile character. David Gordon, on the other hand, is an Acis who could easily take on the villain of the piece, Polyphemus, here made to sound quite a jovial character by Jan Opalach. The solo quartet is completed by the agreeable voice of Glenn Siebert’s Damon. Choral singing is resolute in Schwarz’s unhurried tempos, and the orchestra is warm and rounded. The 1991 recording was previously released on the Delos catalogue, and forms part of Naxos’s new ‘Seattle Symphony Collection’. © 2012 David’s Review Corner






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7:24:04 PM, 22 September 2014
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