Handel Choice of Hercules (The)

A complete‚ well­characterised account‚ with Gritton especially beguiling as Pleasure

Record and Artist Details

Composer or Director: Maurice Greene, George Frideric Handel

Genre:

Vocal

Label: Hyperion

Media Format: CD or Download

Mastering:

Stereo
DDD

Catalogue Number: CDA67298

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
Hearken unto me, ye Holy children Charles Daniels
Peter Harvey
King's Consort Choir
(The) King's Consort
Robert King
Robin Blaze
Maurice Greene Composer
(The) Choice of Hercules King's Consort Choir
George Frideric Handel Composer
Alice Coote
Robin Blaze
(The) King's Consort
Robert King
Charles Daniels
Susan Gritton
In 1749 Handel composed music for a play‚ Alceste‚ by Tobias Smollett but in the following year the plans for staging it ran aground. Never one to waste good music‚ in the summer of 1750 Handel adapted much of the Alceste music for a short‚ one­act allegorical work‚ The Choice of Hercules – it was always useful to have to hand a piece of that length‚ which would make a suitable evening’s entertainment when coupled with such a work as Alexander’s Feast (its companion at its première in 1751). The plot is of a familiar kind‚ which Handel had known since his Italian years: Hercules is required to choose between the blandishments of Pleasure and the more austere options offered by Virtue. No prizes for guessing the winner: but many of us might have been persuaded the other way by the seductive charm of ‘Come‚ blooming boy’‚ Pleasure’s opening number‚ or her later gavotte‚ ‘Turn thee‚ youth’. And Susan Gritton’s appealing‚ shapely and gently sensuous singing of these items – with the support offered by Charles Daniels‚ one of her minions‚ in his graceful and skilful account of ‘Enjoy the sweet Elysian grove’ – is certainly persuasive‚ especially with the soft and warm textures provided by Robert King. But Alice Coote calls Hercules to duty‚ with the strong and firm line in her first number‚ and with a tone of unmistakable authority and exemplary clarity in her recitative and air ‘Mount the steep ascent’. As Hercules Robin Blaze sings his central air‚ ‘Yet‚ can I hear that dulcet lay’‚ exquisitely‚ at a rather slow tempo and with a glow to his voice that brings a new tone of gravitas to the music‚ to compelling effect. His final air too is done with precision and some happy touches of phrasing. Add to this the capable‚ rhythmically crisp if slightly soft­grained contribution from King’s choir and orchestra‚ and the result is a very satisfactory and stylish performance. Greene’s anthem is a spirited piece‚ not specially distinctive in its invention but adeptly written and pleasant to listen to‚ and again stylishly performed. Altogether a very agree­able CD.

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