Handel wrote Alexander's Feast to celebrate St. Cecilia's Day, one of two works in his oeuvre honoring the patron saint of music, and it was premiered in 1736. Set to a text by Dryden, somewhat altered by Newburgh Hamilton, it tells the story of the 'The Power of Musick' (the work's subtitle) in the apocryphal story of Alexander the Great's encounter with the courtesan Thaïs and the musician Timotheus who urge him to burn the palace of the former Persian ruler, Xerxes. The text outlines the power of music to evoke feelings of love, vengeance, political ardor, religious feeling and heroism.
This CD, while adequate, is marred somewhat by the coolness of its performances. Joachim Carlos Martini and his forces, soloists soprano Gerlinde Sämann, tenor Knut Schoch, bass Klaus Mertens, the Junge Cantorei and the Frankfurt Baroque orchestra, give us a measured, occasionally limp performance of this often stirring music. There are other better performances (given complete, it might be said; this recording eliminates the purely orchestral portions that have been traditional in this work) led by such artists as John Eliot Gardiner Händel: Alexander's Feast and Harry Christophers Handel - Alexander's Feast / Argenta, Partridge, George, The Sixteen, Christophers and others. My own favorite is part of a 5CD set with an Alexander's Feast conducted by Philip Ledger and featuring the wonderful Sir Thomas Allen Handel: Saul; Alexander's Feast; The Choice of Hercules [Box Set]. The latter is available actually for less per disc than this present CD. In addition, this issue does not come with a libretto which is a problem as the diction of the singers is frequently not understandable.