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Hogwood: Handel – Athalia (2 CD, APE)

Hogwood: Handel - Athalia (2 CD, APE)
Hogwood: Handel - Athalia (2 CD, APE)

Conductor: Christopher Hogwood
Composer: George Frideric Handel
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 595 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

George Frideric Handel – Athalia
English Oratorio in Three Acts

Athalia – Joan Sutherland
Josabeth – Emma Kirkby
Joas – Aled Jones
Joad – James Bowman
Mathan – Anthony Rolfe Johnson
Abner – David Thomas

Choir of New College, Oxford
Chorus Master: Edward Higginbottom
The Academy of Ancient Music
Christopher Hogwood, conductor

Recording: St Jude’s Church, London, May / June 1985

CD 1
01. Act I: Scene 1: Sinfonia
02. Aria: Blooming virgins, spotless train
03. Chorus: The rising world Jehovah crown’d
04. Solo & Chorus: Tyrants would in impious throngs
05. Recitative: When he is in his wrath reveal’d
06. Scene 2: Recitative: Your sacred songs awhile forbear
07. Scene 3: Recitative: What scenes of horror round me rise!
08. Chorus: The gods, who chosen blessings shed
09. Chorus: Cheer her, O Baal
10. Aria: Gentle airs, melodious strains!
11. Aria: Softest sounds no more can ease me
12. Chorus: The traitor if you there descry / Scene 4: Recitative: My Josabeth! the grateful Time appears
13. Aria: Faithful cares in vain extended
14. Aria: Gloomy tyrants, we disdain

CD 2
01. Act II: Scene 1: Chorus: The mighty pow’r
02. Aria: Through the land so lovely blooming
03. Aria: Ah, canst thou but prove me! / Scene 2: Recitative: Confusion to my thoughts!
04. Aria: Will God, whose mercies ever flow
05. Aria: My vengeance awakes me
06. Duet: My spirits fail, I faint, I die! / Scene 3: Recitative: Dear Josabeth
07. Duet: Cease thy anguish, smile once more
08. chorus: The clouded scene begins to clear
09. Act III: Scene 1: Recitative: What sacred horrors shake my breast!
10. Chorus: Unfold, great seer, what heav’n imparts
11. Recitative: Let harmony breathe soft around
12. Chorus: With firm united hearts / Scene: 2: Rec.: O princess, I approach thee
13. Aria: Soothing tyrant, falsely smiling! / Scene 3: Rec.: Apostae priest!..
14. Chorus: Around let acclamations ring
15. Aria: Oppression, no longer I dread thee
16. Aria: Hark! His thunders round me roll
17. Aria: To darkness eternal
18. Scene the Last: Recitative: Now, Josabeth, thy fears are o’er!
19. Chorus: Give glory to his awful name

A Sutherland/Kirkby Treasure

This recording of Handel’s first “hit” oratorio, conducted by the always-masterful Christopher Hogwood, features the unusual pairing of Dame Joan Sutherland and Emma Kirkby. When Joan recorded the title role, she was at the final stage of her singing career, past her prime. Yet, curiously enough, at this late stage she was able to cope with some of the problems that plagued her in the sixties and seventies. She finally became secure in her bottom register, and sharpened her cloudy diction. Her opening recitative, What Horrors Round Me Rise, will stun those who are accustomed to her mushy, garbled words.

On the whole, this is a brilliant, wonderful performance from La Stupenda. The only drawback is her slow-moving first aria. She temporarily reverts back to her mushy diction, and there is a distinct wobble in her voice, typical of recordings she did in the last five years of her recording career. However, in her confrontation in the Act II with Josabeth (Emma Kirkby), she is again in fine form, and disperses her rage aria, My Vengeance Awakes Me with stunning bravura. It’s as if the years melted away. Sure, it is closely miked, but her coloratura is first-rate, every high note perfectly pitched, with a multitude of interpolations and roulades. It’s beyond me why I’ve never seen this aria on any Joan Sutherland aria recital compelation.

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