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Handel: Esther - First Reconstructable Version Hybrid SACD - DSD

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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, May 29, 2012
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Product Details

  • Conductor: John Butt
  • Composer: George Frederic Handel
  • Audio CD (May 29, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: Linn
  • ASIN: B0072H9BFE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,829 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Dunedin Consort's highly anticipated new recording of 'Esther - First Reconstructable Version (Cannons), 1720' is the third recording in its hugely successful Handel series. The Consort have set the bar high for this Handel performance with a Gramophone Award in 2007 for 'Messiah' and a BBC Radio 3 'Building a Library' First Choice accolade for 'Acis and Galatea'. For Esther, director John Butt has reunited his award-winning team of soloists (Susan Hamilton - Esther; Nicholas Mulroy - Mordecai; Matthew Brook - Haman; Thomas Hobbs - 1st Israelite) plus well-known guest soloists Robin Blaze - Priest, James Gilchrist - Habdonah / Assuerus and Electra Lochhead - Israelite Boy


Best Classical Albums of 2012 --The Times

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on July 17, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This recording is a triumph of both musicology and musicianship, a "first" reconstruction of Handel's "first" sacred oratorio in English and the "first" evidence that Handel had already evolved a distinctly English style almost as different from his Italian manner as Purcell was from Carissimi. There are a couple of previous recordings of Esther, conducted by Harry Christophers and Nick McGegan, but they bear almost no similarity to the version recorded here, for the simple reason that Handel drastically rewrote Esther for a later occasion. The first Esther was a "house" concert at Cannons, the estate of the Duke of Chandos. The libretto may have included contributions by Alexander Pope. It's the story, told twice in the Bible, of the genocide of Jews in Persia decreed by the villain Haman in the name of his King Assuerus. The King, however, hears the appeal of his newly beloved wife Esther, who is herself Jewish, and revokes the decree. In the end, Haman's treacherous intentions are exposed and the villain is sent off to execution. The story is presented in a series of vignettes, almost as tableaux vivantes, that would not have required much explicit narration for an audience deeply familiar with every chapter of the Bible. The political climate in Puritan England in 1720 would NOT have tolerated a more public production of a performance that combined secular music with sacred texts.

This first version of Esther was not entirely new. Much of the music was recycled from Handel's own setting of the Brockes Passion and from his English version of Acis and Galatea. Any listener who supposes that vocal music can be heard best by ignoring the text would do well to listen to Haman's final aria of lament, with its convincing affect of defiance and shame.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Timothy R. Carpenter on July 8, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this, but compared to the recording by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen it presents few differences in text and music and showcases an uneven cast. Comparison with Christopher's Lynda Russell, Nancy Argenta, Michael Chance, Mark Padmore, Tom Randle and Michael George, shows all of Butt's cast to be weaker - in some cases remarkably so. Matthew Brooks, Nicholas Mulroy and James Gilchrist are very good and just a shade below George, Padmore and Randle, but Susan Hamilton and Robin Blaze suffer much when placed next to Russell and Chance. Blaze sounds unsteady, occasionally unsupported and has to resort to an awkward shift into chest (real?) voice below the staff. Hamilton's voice is light, girlish, has a beat in the middle register and is without much character. Her jubilant aria sounds more maniacal than happy and features a badly judged descent into an ugly chest voice.
The difference from Butt to Christophers is that Christophers uses a structure of six scenes while Butt uses a division into three acts. Both were used by Handel at various times. The sequence of numbers remains the same and the orchestration sounds similar (Christophers employs a theorbo). One chorus is different. Butt's orchestra and chorus are similar in numbers to that employed by the Duke of Chandos at Cannons about 1718/20. Christophers groups are about 50% larger.
The orchestras for both are excellent and the sound of both is good, with Linn having more "presence". The perspective in the Christophers is from the middle of the hall; with Butt you are sitting front row center (or maybe right on the stage.)
Both performances take about 100 minutes, with Christophers inserting a lovely Handel oboe concerto between two scenes for an additional six minutes.
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