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King: Handel – Alexander Balus (2 CD, APE)

King: Handel - Alexander Balus (2 CD, APE)
King: Handel - Alexander Balus (2 CD, APE)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Hyperion
Size: 730 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Cleopatra – Lynne Dawson (soprano)
Aspasia – Claron McFadden (soprano)
Alexander – Catherine Denley (contralto)
Jonathan – Charles Daniels (tenor)
Ptolomee – Michael George (bass)
Messenger – Tom Raskin (tenor)
Second messenger – Simon Birchall (bass)

The King’s Consort
Conductor – Robert King

CD 01
01. ACT I Ouverture: [Grave] – Allegro
02. Chorus ASIATES: Flush’d with conquest, fir’d by Mithra
03. Recitative ALEXANDER: Thus far, ye glorious partners
04. Air JONATHAN: Great Author of this harmony
05. Flourish of trumpets
06. Recitative PTOLOMEE: And thus let happy Egypt’s king
07. Air PTOLOMEE: Thrice happy the monarch
08. Recitative CLEOPATRA: Congratulation to our father’s friend
09. Air CLEOPATRA: Hark! hark! he strikes the golden lyre
10. Recitative ALEXANDER: Be it my chief ambition
11. Air ALEXANDER: Fair virtue shall charm me
12. Chorus ASIATES: Ye happy nations round
13. Recitative ALEXANDER: My Jonathan
14. Air ALEXANDER: Oh, what resistless charms are giv’n
15. Air CLEOPATRA: Subtle love, with fancy viewing
16. Recitative CLEOPATRA: Aspasia, I know not what to call
17. Air CLEOPATRA: How happy should we mortals prove
18. Recitative ASPASIA: Check not the pleasing accents
19. Air ASPASIA: So shall the sweet attractive smile
20. Recitative CLEOPATRA: How blissful state!
21. Duet CLEOPATRA & ASPASIA: O what pleasures
22. Recitative JONATHAN: Why hangs this heavy gloom
23. Air ALEXANDER: Heroes may boast their mighty deed
24. Recitative JONATHAN: Ye sons of Judah, with high festival
25. Air JONATHAN: Great God, from whom all blessings
26. ACT II. Air ALEXANDER: Kind hope, thou universal friend
27. Recitative JONATHAN: Long, long and happy live the king!
28. Air ALEXANDER: O Mithra, with thy brightest beams
29. Recitative SYCOPHANT COURTIER: Stay, my dread sovereign
30. Air ALEXANDER: Mighty love now calls to arm
31. Air JONATHAN: Hateful man! thy sland’rous tongue

CD 02
01. Chorus ISRAELITES: O calumny, on virtue waiting
02. Recitative CLEOPATRA: Ah! whence these dire forebodings?
03. Air CLEOPATRA: Tossed from thought to thought I rove
04. Recitative ASPASIA: Give to the winds, fair princess
05. Air ASPASIA: Love, glory, ambition, whate’er
06. Recitative PTOLOMEE: Thus far my wishes thrive
07. Air PTOLOMEE: Virtue, thou ideal name
08. Accompagnato JONATHAN: Ye happy people
09. Soli with Chorus: Triumph Hymen in the pair
10. Recitative ALEXANDER: Glad time, at length
11. Duet ALEXANDER & CLEOPATRA: Hail wedded love
12. Chorus ASIATES: Hymen, fair Urania’s son
13. ACT III. Introduction: Sinfonia
14. Recitative CLEOPATRA: ‘Tis true, instinctive nature
15. Air CLEOPATRA: Here amid the shady woods
16. Recitative ALEXANDER: Ah! was it not my Cleopatra’s voice?
17. Air ALEXANDER: Pow’rful guardians of all nature
18. Recitative JONATHAN: Treach’ry, O king
19. Air ALEXANDER: Fury, with red sparkling eyes
20. Recitative ASPASIA: Gods! can there be
21. Air ASPASIA: Strange reverse of human fate
22. Recitative JONATHAN: May he return with laurel’d victory
23. Air JONATHAN: To God who made the radiant sun
24. Chorus ISRAELITES: Sun, moon, and stars
25. Recitative PTOLOMEE: Yes he was false, my daughter
26. Accompagnato PTOLOMEE: Ungrateful child
27. Air PTOLOMEE: O sword, and thou, all-daring hand
28. Accompagnato CLEOPATRA: Shall Cleopatra ever smile again?
29. Recitative MESSENGER: Ungrateful tidings to the royal ear
30. Air CLEOPATRA: O take me from this hateful light
31. Recitative SECOND MESSENGER: Forgive, O queen, the messenger of ill!
32. Accompagnato CLEOPATRA: Calm thou my soul
33. Air CLEOPATRA: Convey me to some peaceful shore
34. Recitative JONATHAN: Mysterious are thy ways, O Providence!
35. Chorus JONATHAN & ISRAELITES: Ye servants

A glorious recording of one of Handel’s finest works

At a time when a geriatric Caligula has been installed on the throne of the United States, the consolations of art become more important than usual. Knowing from experience that HIP performances rarely offer anything of that kind, I was anxious when I ordered this set. Robert King’s Handelian credentials are good, of course, and the choir of my old college does excellent work for him, but I have recently made the acquaintance of his Water Music, a decidedly 4-star job, and three CDs of that would have been a test of fortitude. Human kind can bear only so much disillusionment.

But I am happy to report that this is a glorious recording, with fire in its belly, committed and excellent singing, and (mirabile dictu for an HIP performance) real weight and power that do the composer proud. Nor is this one of Handel’s less-inspired works, as some here have suggested: its music can stand comparison with his very best, even the very different Messiah. The listener is entirely caught up in the drama for its entire duration. Aiding this is a superbly judged and balanced recording.

I have started buying second-hand copies of older recordings like this one for their high-quality printed libretti (PDF versions on disc are inconvenient in every way: you have to read them on a computer while playing your CD on a separate disc player, or print them out and have an unmanageable paper copy that can’t be filed with the recording). This set contains a complete libretto in English, French, and German, along with a scholarly account of the work by Robert King himself. What are you waiting for?

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