Handel, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie - Music For Queen Caroline

Published Thursday 15th January 2015
Handel, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie - Music For Queen Caroline
Handel, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie - Music For Queen Caroline

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Les Arts Florissants Editions AF004

This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

As we have come to expect from Les Arts Florissants Editions, this is a beautifully presented and packaged release and, more importantly, one that is well worth hearing. Caroline of Ansbach (officially Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline von Brandenburg-Ansbach) was the wife of King George II and patroness of Georg Friedrich Handel. With the accession of the elector as George I in 1714, Caroline became Princess of Wales and on his death, in 1727, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland as consort of King George II. Three magnificent works by the composer, including the moving "The Ways Of Zion Do Mourn" (HWV264), the funeral anthem for Queen Caroline, testify to the friendship between this royal consort and artist. Handel was entrusted with the solemn music composed for the grand ceremonies that marked the reign: "The King Shall Rejoice" (HWV260), given for the King's coronation, the "Queen Caroline Te Deum" (HWV280) written for her own ascension to the throne, and the aforementioned "The Ways Of Zion Do Mourn". This recording brings together, for the first time, three works underlining the strong link between the monarch and his favourite composer. The vocal and instrumental ensemble Les Arts Florissants is one of the most respected early music groups in the world. Dedicated to the performance of Baroque music on original instruments, the ensemble was founded in 1979 by the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor William Christie who directs it to this day, and takes its name from an opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Christie, rightly in my opinion, likes his Baroque to be bright and bubbly and even during the appropriately sober moments of the funeral music he sees the light that Handel knew awaits the faithful. Illustrating this is an interesting short story as part of the box set by the distinguished American writer Douglas Kennedy. I do not want to spoil the twist in the tail by giving too much away but reading the story reminds me of reading the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. Those who live in faith approach death differently to those without or, to paraphrase Tolstoy, we see death not as the closing of a lid but as the opening of a door. Handel, even in his funeral music, is life affirming and this release is worthy of one of the greatest composers who ever wrote a tune.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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