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20.8.08

New Dettingen Te Deum

available at Amazon
Handel, Dettingen Te Deum, Organ Concerto No. 14, Zadok the Priest, N. Davies, R. Marlow, Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, Academy of Ancient Music, S. Layton

(released June 10, 2008)
Hyperion CDA67678

Online score:
HWV 283
Handel's D major setting of the Te Deum, HWV 283, is known by the nickname Dettingen because Handel began the work in expectation of having it performed at a public ceremony of thanksgiving for the victory of George II at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. It is not exactly an over-recorded piece of music, but Trevor Pinnock and Simon Preston put together a well-remembered version of the Dettingen Te Deum on a 1984 recording (seems to be cheaper here) with the Choir of Westminster Abbey and the English Concert. While that disc paired the work with the shorter Dettingen Anthem, conductor Stephen Layton combines it instead with one of the Handel organ concertos and the coronation anthem Zadok the Priest.

It was Handel's last encounter with one of the best, most important liturgical texts in Christian history, in the Book of Common Prayer's English version. As with so many other church texts, the words are much more durable and grand than any later, so-called modern version: "To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry" could hardly be a more poetic rendering of Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant, or "the goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee" of Te prophetarum laudabilis numerus. The handling of the music is superlative, with a beautifully blended performance of the five-part choruses by the 30-some voices of the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, in whose chapel the sound was captured.

The choir's sound is especially distinguished by its rarefied soprano section (women instead of the boys on the Pinnock disc), with strong solo work from one of the choir's altos, countertenor Christopher Lowrey. Members of the Academy of Ancient Music provide gentle support in many passages, as well as brilliant bombast of trumpets and timpani in the more regal parts. Richard Marlow plays well on the A major organ concerto, on a portative organ modeled on a German instrument, if short of the flair associated with Handel's name. The performance of the famous coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest, is tight and a little too careful but still thrilling to hear. All in all, warmly recommended.

60'33"

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