Handel: Song for St Cecilia’s Day

Following the widespread critical acclaim of their debut recording, 'Alexander’s Feast', Ludus Baroque brings their celebrated verve to Handel's 'Song for St Cecilia’s Day'. Coupled with his miniature cantata for tenor, 'Look down Harmonius Saint', which Handel wrote to supplement performances of 'Alexander's Feast', and with the Concerto Grosso in B flat, written in his fruitful autumn of 1739, Handel approaches the setting of this second text by John Dryden with the same extraordinary vividness of detail and metrical virtuosity as Alexander’s Feast.

"What passion cannot music raise and quell?" - the answer is that it can raise and quell them all: martial, erotic, sacred … but as music had, in the beginning, been the divine principle of cosmic order, so, on the Final Day, it will be the force that dissolves the universe.

"Ludus Baroque presents its qualities with unusual vividness in this spacious and measured performance...the whole choral and orchestral tableau is marvellously realised here in an acoustic that combines richness with presence. Superb vocal solos, too"

"The ode receives an orderly performance. I wish there were double the number of string-players: the sonority of only six violins is insufficiently grand for the overture's opening...The unaffected 19-strong choir outweighs the slimline orchestra at times....but kudos to Delphian for the intelligent choice of cover art reflecting Dryden's first stanza discussing the creation of the universe."

"I warm to the conductor’s big-boned, exhibitionist Handel style and the youthful-sounding vigour of the choir. The basses are wonderfully resonant...Mary Bevan’s bright, tangy soprano gets the lion’s share of the solos, especially radiant in “What passion cannot music raise and quell?” and “Oh, what art can teach"

"a blaze of glory…The instrumental roster includes some of the UK’s leading baroque specialists and the results are every bit as elegant as one might expect in support of a responsive chorus and a pair of outstanding soloists...conveying Dryden’s text as though their lives depended on it."

"Orchestrally and chorally, it has tremendous buoyancy. Solos for flute, organ and cello are artfully phrased, while soprano Mary Bevan and tenor Ed Lyon add zest to Handel's high-arching settings of Dryden's verse."

"Ludus Baroque acquits itself admirably...with instrumental exponents stylishly playing, whether in a group or in single contributions. The choral side produces fresh sounds...Bevan and Lyon serve the music laudably. She has a clean, limpid tone, which sits well in Handel's arias, smooth but not pale, shining but not glaring...Among [Lyon's] positive points are his natural singing and enunciation, his clean articulation of rapid notes and a pleasing tone."

"Radiant soprano Mary Bevan is in glorious form in "What passion cannot music raise and quell?", while the chorus is outstanding throughout, singing with beautiful diction and a light, springy edge. And exciting Ed Lyon confirms his place as one of Britain's top baroque tenors"

"Every ingredient here fuses in harmony: Handel’s marvellous tunes, the young performers, John Dryden’s crisply effective words, the friendly acoustics of Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirk. Memorable music, delivered without frills: that’s all you really need."

Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue(s): Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh
Recording dates: 8-10 August 2011
Physical format: Jewel case
Number of discs: 1
Number of tracks: 17
Release date: 30 July 2012
Album ID: DCD34110
Total playing time: 1:19:55

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