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Gardiner's "Solomon" Remastered

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Handel, Solomon, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir, John Eliot Gardiner (remastered in 2006)
The wisdom of King Solomon was described in the Bible in numerous ways, none more vivid than his shrewd decision regarding the suit of two women, both of whom claimed to be the mother of the same baby (3 Kings 3:16-28). After hearing both sides, Solomon ordered his guard to divide the baby in half, so that both parties could be satisfied. One of the women becomes distraught, begging Solomon not to kill the baby but give him alive to her opponent. Solomon reveals his stratagem, that he gave the order to divide the baby only to determine who actually loved the baby more and was thus his mother.

Handel's setting of this scene in Act II, scene 2, of his oratorio Solomon (1749) is so beautiful that, in my mind, Handel's version must be how it actually happened. The first woman must have made her final plaint to Solomon with precisely the words of the libretto, attributed to Newburgh Hamilton:
Can I see my infant gor'd
With the fierce relentless sword?
Can I see him yield his breath,
Smiling at the hand of death?
And behold the purple tides
Gushing down his tender sides?
Rather be my hopes beguil'd,
Take him all, but spare my child.
Handel's heart-breaking music never sounded as good as in this classic performance featuring Carolyn Watkinson (Solomon), Joan Rodgers (First Harlot), and Della Jones (Second Harlot). If you do not already own it, this classic recording conducted by John Eliot Gardiner has just been re-released in a remastered version.

Philips 475 7561

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