Handel: Alexander’s Feast (2CD)

Twice a year, some of the UK’s finest Baroque players and young vocal soloists come together in Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh to give sell-out concerts of great and lesser-known works by Bach and Handel.

The chorus, hand-picked by Will Dawes, comprises a sensational selection of singers from Britain’s finest early-music consorts, including the Monteverdi Choir, The Sixteen, Polyphony and the Gabrieli and King’s Consorts. These appearances are unmissable events in Edinburgh’s musical calendar. Now, for the first time, listeners from further afield can experience the celebrated verve of these performances; Handel’s 1736 setting of a dramatic poem by John Dryden is the perfect showpiece for the vitality and abandon of Ludus Baroque and their rising-star soloists.

"Richard Neville-Towle gets beautifully crisp playing from his orchestra: the jolly numbers bounce along nicely but the sombre passages are given their due weight...The chorus sounds young, fresh and enthusiastic."

"Vivacious youth leaps from this lively CD debut by Richard Neville-Towle’s group...The tenor Ed Lyons’s diction cuts through the resonant church acoustic: every word dances before us. The soprano Sophie Bevan needs a lighter touch, and the chorus greater clarity. But minor flaws fade before the sound of musicians bouncing with joy."

"Richard Neville-Towle gathers some of Britain's best new talents on this recording – Sophie Bevan, Ed Lyon and William Berger are on dazzling form and there is some superb singing from the chorus. "The many rend the skies with loud applause," they sing. And so they should."

"Energy and vigour are among the common properties radiated by the period instrument players and professional choristers of Richard Neville-Towle's Ludus Baroque...This exuberant performance, intensely focused in its second part, moves and inspires."

"This is a scintillating first commercial recording. The young soloists, Sophie Bevan, Ed Lyon and William Berger, are all first-rate"

"Sophie Bevan's shining soprano is always a pleasure to hear: the vocal equivalent of a fresh, bright spring morning...Capable of encompassing long-breathed phrases, [Lyon] has a bit of 'beef' in the voice, which serves him well in the more outgoing arias...the 18 voices produce a fine sound, as does the orchestra, well directed by Neville-Towle, who directs a spirited performance."

"I particularly enjoyed the choruses which show the choir at its full strength. The delivery is excellent, and the treatment of dynamics impressive... lovers of Handel's music shouldn't miss this recording. It has many fine qualities; I have mentioned the choir, but the orchestra is of the same high level...The recording is outstanding: it is crisp and clear, and has great presence."

"The warm, shapely choral singing is in stark contrast to the Dunedin Consort's ascetic precision...Berger [is] particularly impressive in the B-section of "Revenge, Timotheus cries". Jan Waterfield's harpsichord concerto sets the tone for an exalted yet humane celebration."

"Orchestral details emerge with pristine clarity – the juddering lower strings as the tenor sings of beating drums in The Praise of Bacchus, or the braying natural horns in the chorus which follows. The libretto is barely necessary, so good is the diction of chorus and soloists...Music is described in the closing chorus as "the greatest blessing". Listen to these discs and dare to disagree."

Producer: Paul Baxter
Recording venue(s): Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh
Recording dates: 26-29 August 2010
Physical format: Jewel case
Number of discs: 2
Number of tracks: 29
Release date: 28 February 2011
Album ID: DCD34094
Total playing time: 1:22:26

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