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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Tobit is a pasticcio, drawn from many different numbers in Handel’s operas and oratorios. This oratorio, based on the Book of Tobit in the Apocrypha, was compiled five years after Handel’s death by John Christopher Smith, who inherited his manuscripts. Cleverly, Smith builds the pieces from lesser-known numbers, varying the forces used, so that there are many more ensemble numbers, duets, trios and arias as well as choruses, than in the Handel operas. The story involves little stress, a piece designed to make the listener feel good, so that the last two of the three sections end in triumphant Alleluia choruses, though the very last is in a minor key. The performance with Frankfurt forces is first rat, with Joachim Carlos Martini drawing lively playing and singing from the Junge Kantorei and the Baroque Orchestra. The soloists are all firm and clean in their vocalization, the tenor Knut Schoch in the title-role (his English articulation excellent), Maya Boog, Linda Perillo and Barbara Hannigan in the three soprano roles, and the mezzo, Alison Browner as Tobias. First-rate sound.

Richard Gate
Limelight, May 2007

The singers are very close-miked and this is very exciting. The audio range is restrained; it is a typical EMI recording from the 1950s and the tape hiss is evident. Frankly, this is preferable to the practice of lopping the top off older recordings to make them more palatable to a digitally attuned audience.

This boxed set comes with seven extra tracks of music from the opera, comprising historical recordings from Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill (1950), Blanche Thebem (1950), Ezio Pinza (1946), Marian Anderson (1928), Mattia Battisini (1913) and Merta Seinemeyer (1927). They display a range of singing and acting styles that illuminate the work.

Robert Hugill
MusicWeb International, May 2007

"In this performance from Joachim Carlos Martini and the Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra, Martini has made some adjustments to the score; adding a number of sinfonias to delineate scenes plus some extra arias. The result is attractive without ever being dramatically gripping...Martini has assembled an excellent polyglot cast who all acquit themselves well....The Junge Kantorei address the choruses with lively enthusiasm...The Frankfurt Baroque Orchestra accompany nicely and give neat accounts of the overture from Tamerlano and the various sinfonias included in the work. If you think of this as a recital disc then it is a nice proposition. Just put it on and enjoy some of Handel’s finest music in attractive performances."

Mark Sealey
MusicWeb International, March 2007

"Almost all the music is palpably Handelian and vigorously executed at that: these are not soloists or an orchestra who get involved with messes – and they acquit themselves admirably here. Handel purists will probably jib at the very concept of ‘compiling’ a would-be integral whole from disparate parts. But when one remembers just how much borrowing and recycling of his own works Handel did, the wrench is a little slighter. If it’s an enjoyable, well-performed and moving oratorio by the Baroque’s greatest exponent thereof that you want, then this 2-CD Naxos offering of an otherwise rare article should certainly be given a chance."

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2007

Though Naxos is marketing this as a work by Handel, it is in fact a pastiche by John Christopher Smith who 'borrowed' music from Handel’s operas, oratorios and other works. I suppose you would kindly describe Smith as an 'opportunist', who finding he had inherited Handel's scores from his father - who had acted as the composer's copyist - was not slow in using them for his own financial gain. He enlisted the help of Thomas Morell to supply a suitable libretto to fit the chosen music, and used various sources in creating the musical story. It relates the legend of the pious and steadfast Tobit (Tobias the elder) who becomes blind and sends his son also called Tobit to collect money owed. A guiding hand passes him through trials and tribulations until he arrives back home able to cure his father's blindness, and everyone lives happily thereafter. It is a quite extensive score of similar length to Messiah, Smith, offering a semblance of creativity, adding the music for recitatives. He was not shy of cherry-picking from works that would have been popular at the time, the score opening with the overture to the opera, Tamerlano. Today most of the works have fallen from the repertoire, and we might even show gratitude to Smith for his recycling act. Sung in English - I think - by an international cast from both sides of the Atlantic, and I am vocally impressed by the Canadian soprano, Linda Perillo, a singer specialising in this era, and by the tenor, Knut Schoch, an expert in Baroque performance. Maya Boog is at times troubled in fast decorative passages, and after an early period of edgy intonation, Barbara Hannigan settles into a pleasing light voice. The Choir sounds fresh and energetic, while the Frankfurt Baroque produces that sound we would have heard in Handel's time. There are few mishaps in the one 'live' performance that gave rise to the recording made in 2001, the sound quite close but with a warm ambience. This is the only available recording.

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