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Early Music Today (06-08/2015)


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Reviewer: Nicholas Anderson

Handel gave the first performance of his oratorio 'Joshua' at London's Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1748. The text, which may be by Thomas Morell concerns the conquest of the Promised Land by the Israelites and is a metaphor for the victory of the Hanoverian dynasty over the Catholic pretender to the throne, Charles Stuart. The present live recording with applause at the conclusion of Acts 1 and 3, was made at the 2014 Göttingen International Handel Festival and features an international cast of solo vocalists, the North German Radio Choir and the Göttingen Festival Orchestra of period instruments.


Laurence Cummings, the festival's director and the musical director of this performance is a persuasive Handelian with a lively stylistic sense to which the excellent instrumentalists respond with warmth and immediacy. The solo lineup, alas, is a very mixed bag. Anna Dennis (Achsah, daughter of Caleb) comfortably steals the show with her alluring vocal timbre, fluent technique and secure intonation. To her role is assigned the best‑known air of the piece, 'O, had I Jubal's lyre'. Renata Pokupić's Israelite warrior, Othniel who will marry Achsah is less engaging. Her intonation is variable and her vibrato excessive. Tobias Berndt (Caleb) and Joachim Duske (Angel) are disappointing, too. Kenneth Tarver in the title role has an athletic technique, capable of virtuosity when required. His intonation though is occasionally insecure, especially in the uppermost notes of his range. The choruses, one of which is the second well‑known number,'See, the conqu'ring hero comes!' are well sung and crisply articulated.

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