Review by Oakland February 4, 2013 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
|A couple of weeks ago I happened upon an online article that spoke to the approaching celebrations being planned for Utrecht, Holland to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht that was signed in 1713. The Treaty brought to a formal conclusion nearly 200 hundred years of almost continuous warfare among European nations. I had Channel Classics’ “Music for the Peace of Utrecht” in my collection, but gathering dust. But after reading the online article and then leafing through the very informative Channel Classics liner notes I made it a priority to give this SACD a serious listen.
The compositions by George Handel (“Te Deum and “Jubilate”) and William Croft (“Ode for the Peace of Utrecht) were commissioned or written for the actual 1713 Utrecht celebration; not previously written compositions that were adapted or pieces written years later. And together or separately make for great music, especially when placed in context for the jubilant celebration for which they were written.
As one would expect given a gala occasion of this scale and long hoped for the compositions are buoyant, effervescent, celebratory and grand. And pretty straight forward, too. There is not a whole lot that you have to think about to obtain full enjoyment of the music. And not to mention that the text is in English that is clearly provided in the Channel Classics liner notes.
I found the music interesting and thoroughly enjoyable on the merits. This is made even more so by the judicious mix to how the various movements are presented. Some movements feature multiple soloists and chorus, some chorus only, and others feature tenor, alto, and bass with and without chorus. This all helps to sustain a harmonious equilibrium to the music. All three works have an accordant feel about them as if they are made for each other. One noted difference between the two composers is that Handel’s contribution is ecclesiastical or apostolic, perhaps in keeping with the dictum of his commission. On the other hand Croft’s composition is secular, paying devoted homage to the Queen and the Throne.
Although not on as large a scale as Handel’s contribution to the “Music for the Peace of Utrecht”, I found the Croft work to be of special interest. I must say that when a work that is billed as a “world premiere recording” I become wary. Why is it that after 300 years and 100 years of recorded music history no one found it worthy to record? Is it only because the 300th anniversary hoopla served as a ready excuse to disentomb a second tier composition? Not at all! Make no mistake. This is high quality music and not merely a “filler”. Channel Classics’ liner notes suggest that the music was uncovered in recent years in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. In the opening movement you would not be faulted if you thought you were listening to a dignified variation of Handel's “Music for the Royal Fireworks”. It is as if Croft attempted to out Handel Handel or worse that Croft stole the music from Handel. But wait! Croft’s composition was written in 1713, 35 years *prior* to Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” of 1748.
The musicianship of the Netherlands Bach Society is faultless. The choir is deserving of special recognition. Not only does the choir sound superb but also includes talented soloists among its members. In the Croft composition the solo parts are capably performed by members of the choir. On the other hand the Handel compositions call upon outside soloists.
Well, how does it all sound? At the risk of being redundant, especially about Channel Classics recordings, the sound is characteristically superb. The sound is excellent throughout the frequency range with an exceptional bass foundation from the harpsichord or chamber organ. But I expect no less. The Channel Classics multi-channel balance (as is the stereo, to which I listened to but briefly) is without fault.
Robert C. Lang
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