Handel: Chandos Anthems Nos 7, 9 & 11a (CD Review - Gramophone Magazine, 2009)
Soloists and chorus alike excel in three of Handel's Chandos Anthems
This contains three of the 11 so-called Chandos Anthems composed between August 1717 and summer 1718 for James Brydges, the Earl of Carnarvon (from 1719 the First Duke of Chandos). Handel's music was tailor-made for fewer performers than those featured here. Nevertheless, the 40 members of the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, sing with flexibility and lightness. The opening chorus of O praise the Lord with one consent is crisply articulate and lightly shaped, and consonants are attacke with voracity. Most of the choral contributions have sweetness and delicacy. It would be fascinating to hear what a group of only eight expert voices might do with the same music, but Trinity's choral blend and polish is highly disciplined. Stephen Layton lets the performers off the leash a little in the final pealing "Alleluia" sections of each anthem, and in some dynamic passages of Let God arise, based on Dixit Dominus (written in Rome a decade earlier). The Academy of Ancient Music’s playing is often understated and the introductory sonatas of Let God arise and My song shall be alway feature convivial oboe solos played by Katharina Spreckelsen. The four illustrious soloists excel in numerous short movements. Iestyn Davies navigates some difficult low passages in “Praise him, all ye that in his house” (HWV254) without traces of strain (maybe Handel was writing for a high Purcellian tenor?). Neal Davies is authoritative, James Gilchrist is on fine dramatic form in “Like as the smoke vanisheth” (HWV256a), and Emma Kirkby shows her stylistic intelligence and masterful communication of text in the radiant opening of HWV252. It is enjoyable to hear some of Handel’s lesser-known and more intimate English church music performed with such elegant restraint and skill.