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Cat. No. CHAN 0788 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 0788 - Handel: Alceste
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Available From: 15 April 2012
Handel: Alceste

This recording of Alceste is performed by the Early Opera Company and Christian Curnyn, whose other Handel recordings for Chandos have all received glowing accolades: Semele, for instance, was an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and one of the Records of 2007 in The Sunday Times. The recording of Flavio was nominated for a Gramophone Award in 2011, in the Baroque Vocal category.
 In Alceste, Admetus, the terminally ill King of Thessaly, is promised by Apollo that he can defer his premature death if another person volunteers to die in his place. Alcestis, the beloved wife of Admetus, bravely sacrifices herself to die in his place. The hero Hercules visits his grieving friend Admetus, resolves to travel to Hades, overpowers Pluto, returns Alcestis to the world of the living, and restores her to Admetus.
 The production of Alceste was initially envisaged as an expensive collaboration between the Scottish-born novelist and playwright Tobias Smollett, the Covent Garden company of actors and singers, the theatre owner and manager John Rich, the prestigious composer Handel, and the elaborate scenery designer Giovanni Servandoni. However, soon after full rehearsals began, Alceste was aborted permanently for reasons that are unclear. One theory to explain the cancellation is that the lavishness of the production became too expensive for Rich to risk box-office failure – another is that the temperamental Smollett quarrelled violently with the theatre owner, who might have responded by cancelling the production. Whatever the reason behind the cancellation, Smollett’s abandoned script for the play was lost, and only Handel’s incidental music survives today.
 Although Handel never performed his music for Alceste, he characteristically found plenty of practical uses for it.  He adapted several sinfonias, choruses, and arias to form the majority of the music for The Choice of Hercules, and several other numbers were later used in revivals of Belshazzar and Alexander Balus.

Reviews

                            Opera Award Winner
BBC Music magazine Awards 2013

“...Crowe is simply glowing in her soprano functions, notably the two Calliope airs. Hulett makes a very strong and admirable showing here... The choral and instrumental forces are superb here, and the sound is quite full in Chandos’s updated engineering...”
Barker – American Record Guide – September/October 2012


                         **** - Exceptional
Carlo Vitali - Musica magazine - September 2012

“...It’s a delicious disc with some quite surprising stuff.”
Robert Thicknesse – Opera Now magazine – September 2012
 
 

"...The orchestra and chorus of the Early Opera Company are on good form and Curnyn keeps the piece flowing. This ensures that there are no longueurs. The chorus impress with their brilliant yet keenly defined delivery and these qualities are also to be found in the orchestra... if you haven’t yet made the acquaintance of Handel’s personable score, then this is the time to do so and this is the recording to go for." 

Robert Hugill - MusicWeb-International.com - 26 July 2012

“...There’s a real sense of ceremonial majesty in the choruses, and the solo singing is exceptionally fine. Benjamin Hulett tackles his exacting coloratura numbers with great elegance, while Andrew Foster-Williams has fun as Charon... Best of all, though, is Lucy Crowe, who gets to sing Gentle Morpheus, Son of Night, one of the most beautiful things in Handel’s entire output.”     ****
Tim Ashley – The Guardian – 13 July 2012

                 ****    Excellent
"Beautiful sound..."
Jérémie Bigorie - Classica magazine - July/August 2012

     Gramophone Choice
“... On this new recording Christian Curnyn and his trim period band give full value to the music’s sensuous charm, phrasing alluringly in the slower numbers and keeping the rhythms lithe and springy. Bass-lines are always vitally shaped. The 12-strong chorus sings with the youthful freshness and the three soloists are ideally chosen. Andrew-Foster Williams is incisive without bluster in Charon’s balefully cheerful ‘Ye fleeting shades’. Benjamin Hulett is both mellifluous and athletic in his three arias, while Lucy Crowe displays her nimble coloratura technique in the frolicking ‘Come fancy’, and brings a limpid purity of line to ‘Gentle Morpheus’. First-rate Chandos sound and presentation ... complete and hour of hedonistic Handelian delight.”
Richard Wigmore – Gramophone magazine – August 2012
 

"...The sound is excellent ... The playing is exemplary and indeed often virtuosic - the work of the two trumpeters in particular... The small choir makes a lovely, well-tuned and balanced sound. Their diction is excellent. Tenor Benjamin Hulett sings in the best tradition of British handelian tenors ... being fleet and light yet virile of tone... The main vocal attraction is the chance to hear up-and-coming soprano Lucy Crowe in several extended arias ... I commend the musicality of the olayers and the two main singers ..."
Ralph Moore - Musicweb-International.com - 25 June 2012

                        Opera Choice
Performance *****      Recording *****

“Alceste enchants with fleet strings and polished soloists”
Anna Picard – BBC Music magazine – July 2012

“...This new Chandos release offers a welcome chance to appreciate the music of Alceste in its original, never realised, guise....  Pick of the bunch is the ravishing ‘Gentle Morpheus, son of night’, in which Calliope (goddess of poetry) consoles Admetus, sung with affecting tenderness here by Lucy Crowe to sumptuously lilting accompaniment from the Early Opera Company orchestra under conductor Christian Curnyn... Curnyn’s lively and sensitive approach makes a strong case for this little-known score.”
Graham Rogers – BBC Music web-site Review – 25 May 2012

     “CD of the Week”
“...Curnyn’s choral and orchestral forces on sparkling form, the disc offers more than an hour of Handelian delight.”
 Hugh Canning – The Sunday Times – 13 May 2012

 

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