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Hyperion Records

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The Choice of Hercules by Paolo de Matteis (1662-1728)
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67298
Recording details: March 2001
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: April 2002
Total duration: 16 minutes 47 seconds

'The Choice of Hercules is one of Handel's best-kept secrets … Robert King and his expert team evidently relish the work’s hedonistic charms' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Robert King is a fine Handelian, in that he uses the best players and some of the more characterful singers around … some very fine singing’ (Early Music Review)

'Fine notes and full texts complete yet another example of King’s superlative recording activities – a must for Handelians' (American Record Guide)

'And about time too! An admirable addition to Robert King's ongoing Hyperion Handel series' (International Record Review)

'A delightful sequence of 24 brief numbers telling the story of Hercules making his choice between Virtue and Pleasure … Robert King brings out the unquenchable freshness of invention that Handel retained even in his last years, with the choir and players of The King’s Consort consistently responsive and resilient'' (The Guardian)

'Susan Gritton and Alice Coote are exquisite as Pleasure and Virtue. A delightful rarity, coupled with an appealing anthem by Handel's English contemporary Maurice Greene' (The Sunday Times)

'a glowing and altogether irresistible sound' (Fanfare, USA)

'Another major release from one of our most accomplished Baroque outfits' (Organists' Review)

'This is a lovely performance. All the soloists are in exceptionally good voice … Robert King directs proceedings with his spry confidence' (The Evening Standard)

'The confident performance by The King’s Consort is compelling and full of refinement, catching the music’s flavour and drama brilliantly' (Cathedral Music)

'Strong choral singing and excellent orchestral playing add to the merits of a performance that bears all the characteristic hallmarks of Robert King’s stylish, vital direction … Strongly recommended' (Goldberg)

'especially enjoyable' (Gay Times)

'this new recording of the little-known Choice Of Hercules is a welcome addition to their discography … As usual with The King’s Consort recordings, the playing of the musicians is tight and balanced, with a fine equilibrium between soloists, chorus and orchestra' (MusicWeb International)

'In its colour and tunefulness this is extracted essence of Handel, immaculately performed by Robert King’s finely disciplined forces' (Musical Opinion)

'excellent soloists … nicely pointed playing and singing from orchestra and chorus' (Early Music)

'le King’s Consort est énergique et vif … Le chœr est remarquable, surtout dans la vaillance grace à la magnifique présence de ses basses … Cette version surpasse largement celles qui l’ont précedée' (Répertoire, France)

Hearken unto me, ye holy children
March 1728
author of text
various Biblical texts

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The text of the ceremonial anthem Hearken unto me, ye holy children, drawn mainly from the books of Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha, is associated with King’s College, Cambridge, and was first set in 1724 by Thomas Tudway for the founding of the Fellows’ Building at King’s, another work of James Gibbs. (It forms the west side of the central court, parallel to the river Cam.) According to a note on an early copy of the score, Greene’s new setting was composed for performance in King’s College Chapel on 25 March 1728, the anniversary of the college’s foundation. This date has however been questioned by H Diack Johnstone, the leading authority on Greene, as there is nothing in the college records to indicate a special celebration of the anniversary in 1728. Johnstone suggests instead that the performance may have been a month later, on 25 April, when George II was on a visit to Cambridge and is known to have attended King’s College Chapel ‘to hear an anthem composed for that day’. The king’s presence would have provided a reason for Greene and other musicians to come up from London, and Greene may have taken the opportunity to prepare the ground for obtaining his doctorate two years later.

The anthem begins with what seems at first to be a short overture – four chords in slow tempo introducing a more lively Andante – but it leads directly into the opening alto solo, and the material of the Andante then becomes the basis of the rest of the solo. The first chorus, ‘Magnify His name’ is declamatory. It gives way, via a linking passage on the words ‘And in praising Him you shall say’, to a more stately choral movement (‘Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers’) in which fugal textures emerge and eventually predominate. A reflective tenor solo is followed by the duet ‘Therefore shall he receive a glorious kingdom’, anticipating Handel’s more elaborate setting of the same text in his funeral anthem The ways of Zion do mourn. A recitative and solo for the bass provide a happy change of vocal colour. Greene then brings back the chorus ‘Blessed be the Lord God’ in slightly modified form and adds on a setting of the words ‘Hallelujah, Amen’ to conclude. This final passage also appears (with trumpets) at the end of Greene’s anthem O praise the Lord, ye angels of his which both Samuel Arnold and Friedrich Chrysander published in their collected editions of Handel’s works and which for a long time was regarded as Handel’s ‘Twelfth Chandos Anthem’. Greene would probably have been flattered by the mistaken attribution, but one suspects Handel would not have been amused.

from notes by Anthony Hicks © 2002

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