According to German theological tradition, which Bach knew very well, the alto voice was the very symbol of the Holy Ghost. Bach's three solo cantatas for alto demand enormous vocal virtuosity. Their extraordinary musical variety embraces sublime consolatory lullabies, a faithful echo of an organ concerto and the dramatic qualities of an oratorio. Andreas Scholl is the featured soloist in this reissue, backed by Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Gent.
As a specialist in historical violin techniques of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Simon Standage has performed with many of the world's leading period instrument orchestras. After a music degree from Cambridge University in 1963, a Harkness Fellowship to study with Ivan Galamian in New York City, and, after a 1972 Wigmore Hall debut, he became a founding member of Trevor Pinnock's ensemble the English Concert.
This is the third English Oratorio by Handel, composed in 1733 for the graduation ceremony at Oxford. It is in 3 acts to a libretto by Samuel Humphreys after the stage drama Athalie by Jean Racine. Incidentally, this was Racine's last tragedy penned in 1691. This biblical account taken from Kings 2, centres on the theme of the triumph of God through the revenge performed by his followers on those who blaspheme and oppose him.
Written in the summer of 1749, Theodora was premiered in London at Covent Garden Theatre on 16 March 1750. This work, which Handel considered his finest oratorio, was a failure at first - Handel said bitterly that the hall was so empty that "there was room enough to dance there." Part of this failure could be explained by the earthquake that hit London in February of the same year and caused the upper classes to flee the city, but another possibility is that the subject matter of the oratorio - the rebellion of a woman against the power of the state - was a bit ahead of its time.
The story of the innocent Susanna–whose nude bathing in a stream so excited two elders in her community that they charged her with all sorts of dirty things–is from the Apocrypha. Near the story's close, the young Israelite Daniel, clearly a budding lawyer, disproves the elders' claims by having each explain certain details without the other in the room. (In the Carlisle Floyd version, there's a twist, and the ending is horrifyingly different.) The story, as Handel and his unknown librettist tell it, takes more than two and a half hours. What we get in place of nail-biting drama is a marvelous portrait of the chaste Susanna, her trusting husband, Joacim, and the lascivious elders. There's also a great concentration on the plot's rural setting. Arias are filled with nature–Handel offers us a lovely pastoral setting, with a could-be-tragic story at its core; but neither Nature nor Susanna's good nature wind up sullied. This is a beautiful performance of the work, led by Peter Neumann with tenderness and, when required, with great verve. Neumann makes only a few cuts, equaling about 10 minutes and approved by Handel for the work's 1759 revival.(Robert Levine)
Helmuth Rilling is an excellent conductor and interpreter of Bach's sacred music. Recorded from 1969 to 1985, over a longer period of time than most other sets, there is a lot of change throughout the series. Rilling's recordings are more dense and lush than others, and his tempi are often slower than HIP recordings - no "original instruments" for Rilling. But he creates such a detailed sound-world that any fan of these works should want to hear Rilling's versions to compare with others. This said, Rilling often uses a technique that I find a bit disturbing. He'll have one instrument or group of instruments sequestered to one track, and others on the other track, giving a sound similar to that of early Beatles' stereo mixes, where vocals were on one track and instruments on the other. This is something you never hear in live performance; while one instrument may be on one side, you still hear it on the other side. This tends to make some of the movements sound as though there's no blend among the singers and musicians.(Kirk McElhearn)
Schon bei seiner Gründung 1962 hatten es sich Collegium Aureum als Ziel gesetzt, alte Musik auf historischen Instrumenten aufzuführen. Während der langen Zeit seines Bestehens veröffentlichte das Ensemble zahlreiche erfolgreiche LPs und CDs und konzertierte in den großen Konzertsälen ganz Europas.