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Early Music America  (Spring 2008)

Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020194959

Reviewer:  Craig Zeichner

Handel was at the end of his remarkable career when, in 1749, he composed his oratorio Solomon. The work, set to an anonymous libretto that borrowed from the Old Testament, tells the story of three events in the life of the Biblical king: the building of the temple, the judgment, and the visit of the Queen of Sheba. Handel (1685-1759) tells, in epic style, a tale of statesmanship and love with moving solo arias and rousing, patriotic choruses. The three key roles are for women’s voices. Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly is a velvet-voiced Solomon, more dramatically engaged than any of her recorded counterparts and only rivaled for tonal beauty by countertenor Andreas Scholl on the Paul McCreesh recording. The other female leads are taken by sopranos Susan Gritton and Carolyn Sampson, and they leave the competition in the dust. Gritton is light and graceful in her music for Solomon’s Queen and, as the First Harlot, stops the show in the justly famous “Beneath the vine, or fig-tree’s shade.” Sampson is marvelous as the Queen of Sheba, singing her “Will the sun forget to streak” with genuine emotion. The remaining soloists are topflight, the RIAS Kammerchor, despite occasionally unidiomatic English pronunciation, is excellent, and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is at its usual high standard. Director Daniel Reuss keeps everything moving along nicely, if a bit slowly.



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