Friday, December 13, 2002


Conductor: Laurence Cummings, Anders Ohrwall, et al.
Performer: Emma Kirkby, Anne Sofie von Otter, et al.
Orchestra: Royal Academy of Music Baroque Orchestra, Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble, et al.
Label: BIS BISCD1235
Released: 4 June, 2001

Emma Kirby's radiant performance on the premiere recording of Handel's rediscovered 'Gloria' is well worth the entrance price. The Royal Academy's Baroque Orchestra also give a strong performance, albeit one lacking the richer tones of John Eliot Gardiner's period ensemble on the Philips (462 597-2) recording which appeared a couple of months later. By Handel's standards this a fairly straight setting of a traditional text, but all the expected flourishes, trills, sustains and extended runs are there to add the colour we would expect. The outcome is a splendid combination of required simplicity and appropriate elaboration.

Gardiner's 'Dixit Dominus' is superior to the well-known archive one on this recording, which comes across a little flat. It would have been good if the Academy could have produced a third Handel work to supplement the 'Gloria' - perhaps a Motet like 'Saeviat tellus inter rigores' or the Psalm 'Nisi Dominus'. Gardiner tags on the Vivaldi 'Gloria' instead. But it is something of a curious afterthought, and given the choice of the two I would definitely plump for this CD if it is the Handel you are after.

A couple of other recordings have become available since this release and the Philips one. The Gottingen Handel Festival Edition is a live recording from their 3 June 2001 gala performance with Dominique Labelle, soprano, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and conductor Nicholas McGegan. And the Baroque Academy of Montreal offer another period instrument rendition on Atma Classique (ACD2 2215), accompanied by the Bach and Vivaldi settings. However, Emma Kirby remains the benchmark.

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