Monday, March 2, 2009

CD Review: Handel's Acis und Galatea (version by Mendelssohn Bartholdy)

In 2005, a music antiquarian discovered an arrangement by Mendelssohn Bartholdy of Handel’s masque Acis and Galatea. While other Handel arrangements by Mendelssohn are known, it is believed that this was the first time this particular music had seen the light of day since its London run in 1869.

The Handel festival in Göttingen immediately acquired the music and approached renowned Handel interpreter Nicholas McGegan, and they presented the first modern performance of this work in May of last year. The Norddeutschen Rundfunk Chor and the FestspielOrchester Göttingen teamed up with McGegan to produce this CD, released on the Carus-Verlag label.
McGegan approaches the work with brisk baroque bombast; Handel's more spare orchestration has been fleshed out with timpani, horns, clarinets and other instruments. McGegan’s irascible personality and ebullient conducting style are readily apparent on this disc. Bright, lively tempos abound; he seems to revel in the glory of the somewhat cliche pastoral idyll presented in the opening chorus and indeed the rest of the work. The clear German diction is a pleasure to hear from a native-speaking choir. Most of the soloists are not specifically baroque specialists, which makes good sense considering the interesting idiom of baroque music filtered through the lens of early 19th-century orchestration. Soprano Julia Kleiter particularly stands out with her warm, inviting Galatea. This CD should appeal to those who love Handel, Mendelssohn and/or McGegan.

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