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Esther - Dunedin Consort - SA-CD.net


03 June 2012
SA-CD.net
Plly Nomial
5 Stars

Performance: 5 stars / Sonics (MC): 5 stars

 

Another self-recommending set from the Dunedin Consort under John Butt.

After a three-part overture, the work is structured into 3 acts of 3 scenes almost all of which have at least 2 recitatives, 1 air and 1 chorus. The first number, musically, to stand out is that of "Tune your harps to cheerful strains" for the 1st Israelite sung most affectingly by Thomas Hobbs; the pizzicato string accompaniment and oboe counter-melody are masterly and are performed with real grace by the strings and Alexandra Bellamy. This is answered shortly by the Israelite Boy (Electra Lochhead in ravishing, radiant voice) where a harp is given a major role in the counterpoint (with the flute) - both Frances Kelly and Katy Bircher respectively deserve a good deal of praise. Robin Blaze's Priest of the Israelites gets to round off the solo numbers in Act 1 with "O Jordan, Jordan, sacred tide" in a rather mournful manner, yet his expression never strays into crude emoting but imbues the melodies with sadness that is really rather touching.

After a recitative that gives us our first glimpse of Esther herself, Mordecai's aria "Dread not, righteous Queen, the danger;" is sung with intelligence and sensitivity by Nicholas Mulroy who makes light work of the tessitura and sustained lines alike. Susan Hamilton's Esther is then given it's first "proper" outing in the aria "Tears assist me, pity moving" - her voice is verging on faltering and makes this lament very moving indeed. Hamilton then duets with James Gilchrist as Assuerus (he also sings as Habdonah) who is every bit as musical, rounded of tone as we have come to expect; this is captured in the pair of succeeding aria's before a rather sombre chorus completes Act 2.

Act 3 opens in imperious form for one of Handel's grandest arias "Jehovah crown'd with glory bright" (Robin Blaze's Priest majestic in his declamations). The next action sees Matthew Brook as Haman give a master class in how to sing simply but effectively to create a dominant persona that quite steals the show! The chorus numbers are sung by the soloists and a few others to boost the overall number to 11 and draw the work to a triumphant close.

Throughout the orchestra play magnificently, sensitive to all the soloists and are resplendent when called for; Butt's direction is also inspired with no tempo dragging or rushing, everything appears to be a spontaneous creative act under his guidance. Linn's recording in the Greyfriar's Kirk (Edinburgh) is also a delight - transparent but with body that complements the music and performances perfectly in the balances and timbres allowed.

Hugely recommended in every respect.


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Dunedin ConsortDunedin Consort
James GilchristJames Gilchrist
Handel: Esther, First reconstructable version (Cannons), 1720Handel: Esther, First reconstructable version (Cannons), 1720