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Hyperion Records

SACDA67463 - Handel: An Ode for St Cecilia’s Day
SACDA67463

Recording details: June 2003
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: September 2004
Total duration: 77 minutes 27 seconds

CD OF THE MONTH / EDITOR'S CHOICE (Gramophone)

CLASSICAL CDs OF THE YEAR 2004 (The Daily Telegraph)

'This new recording finds Robert King and his splendid King's Consort on top form and in Carolyn Sampson he has surely found one of the most exquisite voices for this repertoire' (James Jolly, Gramophone)

'This is a mouth-watering performance of Handel's colourfully gorgeous ode…the recording is in a class of its own when it comes to the seemingly effortless, beautiful singing of Carolyn Sampson, now the best British early music soprano by quite some distance…Notwithstanding many agreeable past achievements, King has seldom produced a disc of such outstanding conviction' (Gramophone)

'Robert King beats the ageing process with regular injections of new voices: they remain full of zest … Excellently recorded, this is an unmissable disc of Handelian delights' (BBC Music Magazine)

'For sheer hedonistic delight, few works beat Handel's 1739 Ode for St Cecilia's Day. Dryden's poem in praise of music's powers was a gift to a composer with a genius for the picturesque. 'Handel responded with a string of arias and choruses in his most colourful, sensuous vein. He rarely wrote more ravishing arias than the soprano's sarabande evoking Jubal's lyre (cue for a glorious cello solo), or the serene tribute to the "sacred organ". Carolyn Sampson's limpid tone and graceful phrasing are a prime pleasure in a first-rate performance. Tenor James Gilchrist combines Handelian elegance with muscular bravado in his rollicking "The Trumpet's Loud Clangour". The chorus is crisp and youthful-sounding, and each of the instrumental solos is eloquently done. What gives King the edge over the equally vivid version from Trevor Pinnock (DG Archiv) is the bonus of the rare Italian cantata Cecilia, volgi un sguardo that Handel composed to accompany his earlier Cecilian ode, Alexander's Feast. As an inveterate recycler, he drew liberally on earlier music. But no matter. The results are charming and occasionally, as in the rapt central section of the soprano aria, rather more than that. A delectable disc' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Apart from the contributions of Robert King's ensemble and choir and tenor James Gilchrist, there's one outstanding reason to invest in this pairing of Handel's Ode and the ravishing cantata Cecilia, volgi un sguardo: the soprano Carolyn Sampson' (The Independent)

'… a superb recording of a lovable work' (New York Times)

'Robert King once again shows what a masterful Handelian he is. In this repertoire, the ensemble reigns supreme—perfection of pacing, phrasing, overall shape and individual details can all be taken absolutely for granted. The glorious colour in the ode is exceptional' (Early Music Review)

'Robert King's approach allows the full beauty of the music to emerge naturally, a lesson for other early music speed merchants' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Director Robert King allows the beauty to be revealed on its own terms: the shape, phrasing and pacing all flow effortlessly. Added to this, the exquisite beauty of soprano Carolyn Sampson and the muscular elegance of James Gilchrist ensure that this is a landmark recording' (Choir & Organ)

'a work of great charm, radiantly performed on this disc. Strongly recommended' (Goldberg Early Music Magazine)

'the unique and irresistible pairing with the cantata rarity makes this Hyperion release one no Handel collector should miss' (Fanfare, USA)

'At the heart of it all are Robert King and his splendid ensemble. With King's grasp of rhythm, the overture snaps along marvelously, and his intelligent support of singers makes this an essential Handel recording' (Early Music America)

An Ode for St Cecilia’s Day
The King's Consort, Robert King (conductor) Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
No 7: March  [1'53]

St Cecilia first appears in literature in a medieval collection of tales of early Christian martyrs who met gory deaths; at this stage there is little in her story to suggest a connection with music, but by the middle of the fifteenth century she had been accredited with the invention of the organ and was thus adopted as the patron saint of music. Over the succeeding centuries, the annual celebration of her patronage (falling on the supposed date of her martyrdom, 22 November) inspired composers to dazzling new heights of creativity. At the 1739 festival Handel’s dazzling Ode to St Cecilia (setting the famous text by Dryden) presented enthralled London audiences with chorus, top-notch soloists and a splendid array of obbligato instruments – and some of Handel’s finest music. For this new recording, Carolyn Sampson and James Gilchrist fully rise to the occasion, supported by choir and The King’s Consort in sparkling form.

Paired with the seldom-heard setting for soprano and tenor Cecilia, volgi un sguardo (a Dryden setting from 1736 written as a showcase for the skills of Handel’s two Italian opera stars), this generously filled new recording is a must!

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