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Handel - Hercules, Musical Drama in Three Acts (HWV 60) Box set
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Top Customer Reviews
This is such a performance, not only the best "Hercules" so far (in an admittedly spotty career on disc) but a fine achievement on its own merits. Conductor Marc Minkowski deserves credit first: this is gutsy, vibrant Handel conducting, & he has a fine orchestra & chorus to work with. Yes, he can take some breakneck tempi -- I wish Hyllus's 1st & 3rd airs were a shade slower, if only so that admirable tenor Richard Croft could get all the words out with full clarity -- but everything is alive & visceral. He makes Archiv's 1983 set, the stylish (though drastically cut) John Eliot Gardiner version, sound tame and genteel by comparison.
Minkowski also has the strongest quintet of soloists so far, with some of the finest Handel singers around in peak form. Mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter as the jealous Dejanira is magnificent, everything phrase burning with meaning (she can send chills up your spine with the single word "Yes...Read more ›
The title role is played with great authority by Israeli bass-baritone Gidon Saks, who imbues the role with the requisite vocal power which is especially clean at the top. He also displays a surprising sense of vulnerability, and this combination is particularly affecting when he sings about dealing with his mentally unstable wife, Dejanira. His big air in Act II, "Alcides' name in latest story" reflects not only his character's imminent fate but also his strong heroic sense, which effectively highlights Saks' powerful chest voice. Even though Hercules is the focal role, it is Dejanira that dominates the dramatic currents in the story. Luckily, she is played by renowned mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, who is able to express jealousy and manipulation expertly with a soaring, flexible voice that is pure pleasure to hear. Her climactic scene of madness showcased in the air, "Where shall I fly?", perfectly reflects von Otter's total commitment to the role.Read more ›
This version is a very good recording, but we shouldn't confuse Handel's genius for a product review. Assigning five stars to a recording should be a sign that this is the definitive recording or that it is without material flaws. These judgments are often a matter of personal taste, but I assign four stars because of weaknesses such as these two examples:
1) There are several numbers where the tempo seems quite rushed, to the point of sacrificing the emotional content of the aria. One reviewer cited Hyllus' "Where congeal'd the northern streams" as an example. Comparing the Richard Croft (who is a fine performer) and Minkowski version with Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Gardiner is quite telling. These are very distinct performances which express different emotional content. I prefer Gardiner here.
2) Although some might consider it a quibble, there are several numbers on the Minkowski where the orchestra does not make full use of the score. Take for example Iole's aria "My breast with tender pity swells" (an echo of "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" from Handel's Messiah). Other versions emphasize the viola solo, whereas Minkowski allows the viola to be subsumed by the other strings. Again, for a comparison, listen to the Gardiner version. For such a beautiful instrument, viola solos are rare (and too rare to waste an opportunity like this). Again, I prefer Gardiner.
There are other examples, too (don't even start me on the timpani in the March!).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have to concur with the Deutsch review which covers most of the textual problems, including a few I didn't notice. Read morePublished 17 months ago by David Maclaine
Handel - Hercules, Musical Drama in Three Acts (HWV 60) is a recording under the direction of Marc Minkowski who leads the Les Musixiwna Du Louvre on this Archiv Produktion and was... Read morePublished on March 16, 2011 by Bjorn Viberg
This is a truly different and exciting take on Handel, if I may make so bold a statement. The singing has a somewhat modern flavour, being more convincing and less 'periodic'. Read morePublished on February 4, 2005 by S Duncan