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Handel: Susanna Box set

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, April 25, 2000
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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The story of the innocent Susanna--whose nude bathing in a stream so excited two elders in her community that they charged her with all sorts of dirty things--is from the Apocrypha. Near the story's close, the young Israelite Daniel, clearly a budding lawyer, disproves the elders' claims by having each explain certain details without the other in the room. (In the Carlisle Floyd version, there's a twist, and the ending is horrifyingly different.) The story, as Handel and his unknown librettist tell it, takes more than two and a half hours. What we get in place of nail-biting drama is a marvelous portrait of the chaste Susanna, her trusting husband, Joacim, and the lascivious elders. There's also a great concentration on the plot's rural setting. Arias are filled with nature--Handel offers us a lovely pastoral setting, with a could-be-tragic story at its core; but neither Nature nor Susanna's good nature wind up sullied. This is a beautiful performance of the work, led by Peter Neumann with tenderness and, when required, with great verve. Neumann makes only a few cuts, equaling about 10 minutes and approved by Handel for the work's 1759 revival. Nicholas McGegan's account on Harmonia Mundi is note-complete and just as handsomely played. His Susanna, Lorraine Hunt, wins over this set's Elisabeth von Magnus, but only by a hair; our present Joacim, Syste Buwalda, however, is better than McGegan's Drew Minter. And Neumann's two elders are even nastier than McGegan's. It's a really close call--either performance of this attractive work is to be recommended. --Robert Levine

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Overture
  2. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Chorus - How Long, Oh Lord
  3. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative - (Joacim) Our Crimes Repeated
  4. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air (Joacim) - Clouds O'ertake The Brightest Day
  5. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative - (Susanna) Oh Joacim! When Thou Art By
  6. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Duet - (Susanna, Joacim) When Thou Art Nigh
  7. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative (Chelsias) - Lives There In Babylon
  8. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air (Chelsias) - Who Fears The Lord
  9. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative (Joacim) - A Flame Like Mine
  10. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air (Susanna) - Would Custom Bid The Melting Fair
  11. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative (Joacim, Susanna) - Source Of Each Joy
  12. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air (Joacim) - The Parent Bird In Search Of Food
  13. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative (Susanna) - On Joacim May Ev'ry Joy Attend
  14. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Accompagnato - (Susanna) What Means This Weight
  15. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air - (Susanna) Bending To The Throne Of Glory
  16. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Accompagnato (1st Elder) - Tyrannic Love!
  17. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air - (1st Elder) Ye Verdant Hills, Ye Balmy Vales
  18. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative - (2nd Elder, 1st Elder) Say, Is It Fit
  19. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air - (2nd Elder) The Oak That For A Thousand Years
  20. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Recitative - (1st Elder, 2nd Elder) Ye Winged Gales, Convey
  21. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Air - (1st Elder) When The Trumpet Sounds To Arms
  22. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act I - Chorus - Righteous Heav'n

Disc: 2

  1. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (Joacim) - Frost Nips The Flow'rs
  2. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (Joacim) - On Fair Euphrates' Verdant Side
  3. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (Susanna )- Lead Me, Oh Lead Me
  4. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (Susanna) - Chrystal Streams In Murmurs Flowing
  5. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (Susanna, Attendant) - Too Lovely Youth
  6. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (Attendant) - Ask If Yon Damask Rose Be Sweet
  7. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (Susanna, Attendant) - In Vain You Try
  8. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (Attendant) - Beneath The Cypress' Gloomy Shade
  9. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (Susanna, Attendant) - Thy Plaintive Strains
  10. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (1st Elder) - Blooming As The Face Of Spring
  11. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (2nd Elder, Susanna) - We Long Have Languish'd
  12. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (2nd Elder) - The Torrent That Sweeps
  13. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (Susanna, 2nd Elder) - Deceitful Wolves!
  14. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Trio (Susanna, 1st Elder, 2nd Elder) Away, Away!
  15. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Recitative (Susanna, 1st Elder, 2nd Elder) - Alas! I Find The Fatal Toils Are Set
  16. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (Susanna) - If Guiltless Blood Be Your Intent
  17. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Chorus - Let Justice Reign And Flourish
  18. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Reitative (Joacim) - Is Fair Susanna False?
  19. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Air (Joacim) - On The Rapid Whirlwhind's Wing
  20. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act II - Chorus - Oh Joacim, Thy Wedded Truth

Disc: 3

  1. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Chorus - The Cause Is Decided
  2. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (Susanna) - I Hear My Doom
  3. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Air (Susanna) - Faith Displays Her Rosy Wing
  4. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (1st Elder) - Permit Me, Fair
  5. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Air (1st Elder) - Round Thy Urn My Tears Shall Flow
  6. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (Susanna) - 'Tis Thus The Crocodile
  7. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Accompagnato (Susanna) - But You, Who See Me On The Verge Of Life
  8. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative - The Sentence Now Is Past (2nd & 1st Elder, Daniel)
  9. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Air (Daniel) - 'Tis Not Age's Sullen Face
  10. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (A Judge, Daniel) - Oh Wond'rous Youth
  11. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Chorus - Impartial Heav'n
  12. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (Daniel, 1st & 2nd Elder) - Thou Artful Wretch!
  13. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Air (Daniel) - Chastity, Thou Cherub Bright
  14. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (Susanna) - But See! My Lord
  15. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Air (Joacim)- Gold Within The Furnace Try'd
  16. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (Chelsias) - The Joyful News Of Chaste Susanna's Truth
  17. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Air (Chelsias, Susanna) - Raise Your Voice To Sounds Of Joy
  18. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Chorus - Bless'd Be The Day
  19. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (Susanna) - Hence Ev'ry Pang
  20. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Air (Susanna) - Guilt Trembling Spoke My Doom
  21. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Recitative (Joacim) - Sweet Are The Accents
  22. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Duet (Susanna, Joacim) - To My Chaste Susanna's Price
  23. Susanna Oratorio In 3 Parts HWV 66: Act III - Chorus - A Virtuos Wife


Product Details

  • Performer: Kölner Kammerchor
  • Orchestra: Collegium Cartusianum
  • Conductor: Peter Neumann
  • Composer: G.F. Handel
  • Audio CD (April 25, 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: MD&G Records
  • ASIN: B00004NHPB
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,751 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Of the magnificent quartet of works that crown Handel's career in English oratorio, SUSANNA is the least-known and least-recorded. This is probably due in part to its unusual mix of musical genres, ranging from ornate, extended Italian-opera style arias to simpler strophic English ballad-opera ditties, and to the comparatively minor role played by the chorus. Yet musically it is as rich a score as SOLOMON, THEODORA or JEPTHA, and dramatically - whatever the shortcomings of its libretto - it carries conviction, especially in the moving portrait of its heroine, comparable in many ways to Theodora.
Likewise, whatever its passing faults, this is a fine recording. Credit goes above all to Peter Neumann, one of the best, most natural Handel conductors around. I find his recordings wear well. The standard of musicianship is high, there is an unforced human warmth to the performance, and the feel for the specific spirit of the work is nearly infallible. This set certainly deserves its place on the shelf beside the very different (and sadly deleted) Nicholas McGegan version.
Two thoughts about casting. The role of Daniel was first played by "the Boy," and most female singers who attempt the part try (rightly, I think) to suggest a pre-pubescent male voice. Concerning the role of Joacim, Susanna's husband: the three recordings I know - Neumann, McGegan and a recent William Christie broadcast - use a countertenor, and all three singers have trouble with the tessitura. The part however was first sung by a female alto, Caterina Galli, who was also Handel's original Solomon. My guess is that were a singer like Sarah Connolly to tackle the part, it would change our perception of the role.
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The liner with this set proclaims `It goes without saying that our audiophile label refrains from any sort of sound-modifying manipulation with reverberation, sound-filters, or limiters', although, as you can see, they say it anyway. Sadly, I myself have to say that it is precisely this organic and additive-free sound that prevents me from being more enthusiastic about the production. Right from the overture I found the 1999 sound-quality to be rather dull and `dead'. For a moment, during the opening chorus, I began to hope that this might not be too much of a problem, but when the countertenor Sytse Buwalda set off on the first solo number I started to appreciate how matters were going to develop. The first chorus has an almost Bachian darkness about it, and the recorded sound was by no means inappropriate. The trouble is mainly in the way it treats the soloists. In brief, it reduces the impact of what I like about them and amplifies the effects that I don't like. More's the pity, because there is a great deal about this performance of this little-recorded work that is really very good indeed.

To start with the best things about this set, the choral and instrumental work is probably first-class. I say `probably' because even this is slightly dulled by the recording, but not enough to disguise the clear and distinct English of the chorus and the brilliant precision of their rapid passage-work in the closing number of act I, nor some very nifty and agile orchestral playing. In general the sense of style is apt and proportionate, and the soloists, whatever my reservations, are not only technically accomplished but rise very expressively to the beauty of the arias.
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