More Handel; the Coronation Anthems

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by tones, Sep 22, 2008.

  1. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    The recent discussion of the Water Music/Fireworks Music led someone to point out to me the existence of a version of the Fireworks Music which I hadn't previously heard, this one:

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    It is an all-wind one, the original arrangement for the fireworks display that celebrated the signing of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. However, what also attracted my attention was the presence on the CD of the Coronation Anthems, written for the coronation of George II. Knowledge of these magnificent pieces of music is usually restricted to “Zadok the Priestâ€Â, which has been sung at every coronation since. Not surprising – it is a magnificent piece of musical drama, with its quiet string introduction before the choir, backed by drums and trumpets, explodes into the piece. However, the other three, “The King shall rejoiceâ€Â, “My heart is inditing†and “Let thy hand be strengthened†, are also great music and well worth a listen.

    Lots of people have done “Zadokâ€Â, but I have an enduring love of the old King's College version done on Argo with the English Chamber Orchestra many moons ago. There aren't that many versions of all four anthems around, and what is to me the best version, this one

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    by Nev Marriner and the ASMF, is no longer available. There was a version by Simon Preston and the English Concert,

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    but original instruments or not, to my ears, it didn't cut the mustard beside the ASMF on full sparkle (and nobody sparkles like the ASMF on top form).

    So, does King dethrone King's? In my opinion, no. In a way, this goes back to the original instruments v. modern instruments point brought up by Rodrigo in the “Bach and Richter†thread – the old King's version is, to my ears, just so much more exciting. Not that the Robert King performance is in any way inferior, I hasten to add, but, to me, the King's performance just has that something extra. Now of course this could be quite simply the old problem that the first performance one heard of a piece of music one loved immediately tends to become one's benchmark. I may be guilty of this, but I don't care. The point is that Robert King has not convincingly displaced the old recording from my affections. Ditto the Coronation Anthems. Robert King's are splendid versions to which I will often return, but they won't stop me returning to Marriner.

    Oh yes, the Fireworks. A splendid, sumptuous version. The “military instruments†versions that I have are the English Concert (Pinnock recorded it twice with them, once with strings, once without), Frederic Fennell and the Cleveland Wind Ensemble and Jean-François Paillard in an old version for Erato. Now again I am beset with the problem of having first heard Paillard. I've come to love his little touches, such as his late introduction of the side drums. In La Réjouissance, they do not appear until the third repeat, and the crisp, rolling introduction adds a bit of extra excitement.
     
    tones, Sep 22, 2008
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  2. tones

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    I don't know any of the versions you mention, but Neville Marriner had a very good sense of baroque music: I fully understand that you find it more exciting, because he used to infuse a kind of sparkle into the music. And, of course the ASMF was very good (and still is, I think - I listened to it a couple of years ago, in London) and with Marriner is was at it's peak then.

    Not wanting to bring the issue of modern/hip again, I am finding it difficult to listen to most of my hip recordings. It seems that modern instruments, being easier to play, make the music livelier. Also, the great conductors had experience of a whole range of musical styles: they were mostly all great musicians. That may account in part for the difference. Actually I am now trying to collect pre-hip Bach recordings.:NADowner:
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Nov 10, 2008
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