André Philidor: Processional (Batteries de timballes)
George Frideric Handel: God Save the King! – Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74 – Zadok the Priest (Coronation Anthem N° 1), HWV 258 – Dixit Dominus, HWV 232
Kiera Duffy (Soprano), Sandra Simon (Soprano), Meg Bragle (Mezzo-soprano), Scott Mello (Tenor), José Gotera (Bass), Barry Bauguess (Trumpet), Matthew Bassett (Timpani), Apollo’s Fire Singers and Baroque Orchestra, Jeannette Sorrell (Conductor)
Recording: St. Paul’s Church, Cleveland Heights, Cleveland, Ohio (October 18-21, 2008 and February 2-3, 2007) – 67’09
AVIE Records #AV2270 – Booklet in English, French and German
Though born of Germanic descent, George Frideric Handel spent much of his life in England, certainly a favorite of Queen Anne despite her animosities toward Handel’s native country. Handel was never able to fully master the English language, ridiculed by those surrounding him, but he went on to become one of the most significant composers in developing music for the royal court that to this day is heard with great pomp and circumstance. Handel’s music presents a wide berth of Britannic stateliness.
Under the direction of Jeannette Sorrell, Apollo’s Fire performs a dignified display of Handel’s works that has balance, generous offerings and conservative borders; the tempos and dynamics are softened without exuding harshness.
We first hear Matthew Bassett’s majestic timpani entrée in the Batteries de timballes, a composition penned by Frenchman André Philidor that was used as the musical standard bearer for processional marches into church. Handel scored individual instruments into his pieces, one being the trumpeting fanfare by Barry Bauguess presenting a dramatic lead into Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, a piece which Handel composed in honor of the queen’s 48th birthday. Subsequent sections feature the pure dulcet vibrato of mezzo Meg Bragle and selected airs and duets alongside divine delights of soprano Kiera Duffy.
The poignantly angelic Plainchant: Dixit Dominus Domino meo connects tenor Scott Mello and soprano Sandra Simon in a splendid manner. Even though this psalm tone is the album’s shortest, it is, perhaps, the most divinely striking, characterizing perfect pitch and innocent harmony.
Apollo’s Singers deserve commendation as well. Every voice enters with razor precision, no swooping to attain desired notes. The holds are pure and sweet. In the Dixit Dominus we hear chorus and soloists meld together in an elegant manner. This concluding music, based on biblical Psalm 109, is grand testimony of Apollo’s Fire’s excellence in delivery, blend and interpretation.
This AVIE recording is polished and refined, sophisticated yet simple.