Handel's Acis & Galatea Live - Dunedin Consort - The Herald

First came the recording, followed last week by a chain of public performances in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Haddington, launching Handel's Acis and Galatea as the happiest of additions to the Dunedin Consort's repertoire.

Pared musically to the minimum - just five voices and a handful of instrumentalists - the music in its Edinburgh presentation sighed gently and sweetly as it delivered the story, not quite an opera but certainly not an oratorio, of the pastoral lovers one of whom is killed by the cyclops Polyphemus and eventually transformed by his beloved into a fountain.

It's the monster, as things turn out, who gets the work's most famous aria, Oh Ruddier than the Cherry. Rendered with jovial relish by Matthew Brook, this was the highpoint of an amorous, intimate, wistful evening, in which three admirable tenors (Nicholas Mulroy as Acis with Thomas Hobbs and Nicholas Hurndall Smith as his subsidiaries) were the other male voices with Susan Hamilton the touching heroine.

If, as so often, the bass aria stole the show, the preceding ensemble (Wretched Lovers), with its beautiful broad strokes and pattering underplay, was Handel at his most wondrous. The Act One love duet (Happy We) was cloudlessly voiced, and Mulroy was mellifluous in his aria Love In Her Eyes Sits Playing. John Butt conducted briskly, but with ample charm, the sound of Patrick Denecker's warbling recorder being a special pleasure.

William Sweeney's Songs of Connacht - five wan little reminiscences of mostly melancholy human relationships - formed an apt prologue. Sung by alternating tenors with an ensemble of period instruments, they were beautiful and moving, their atmospheric accompaniments evoking at times the haunting strains of a travelling hurdy-gurdy.

The Herald
10 November 2008