I once sang in "Alexander's Feast," and I now own three different versions of Handel's setting of Dryden's ode. This recording by The Sixteen has three additional pieces of music by Handel that are lacking in the Gardiner and Sanderling versions: the Harp Concerto Op.4, No.6 in B flat, which is inserted between 'Timoteus plac'd on high' and 'The song began from Jove'; and at the end of "Alexander's Feast" we hear the Organ Concerto Op.4, No.1 in G minor plus an extra chorus that runs for 3 minutes and is labeled "Your Voices" tune. I don't have any strong objections to the additions, except the harp concerto interrupts the flow of music as I had learned it.
According to the liner notes by Harry Christophers, "Handel added the delightful harp concerto at the very point Dryden wrote 'Timotheus...with flying fingers touch'd the lyre...' and then inserted an organ concerto after Dryden's final chorus, prior to the additional chorus 'Your voices tune and raise them high,' which Handel added as a finale." So I really have Handel to blame for this longer version of "Alexander's Feast"!
Although I prefer the Thomas Sanderling recording Handel: Alexander's Feast (even though it is sung in German), The Sixteen edition has much to recommend it. The instrumental playing by The Symphony of Harmony and Invention exhibits just the right Baroque sensibility, very much in the spirit of Handel's dramatic scoring. Lyric tenor, Ian Partridge's recitatives are crisply performed and easy to understand. Nancy Argenta's clear, flexible soprano is perfect for the role of Thais. One of the disc's highlights for me is Michael George's spirited rendition of "Revenge, Timotheus cries." He does a great job with the drinking aria, too. The Sixteen perform the choruses with their usual harmony and precision.
If you are a fan of Handel's vocal music, do not neglect "Alexander's Feast," whichever version you choose. Christopher Hogwood says of this music: "Handel added all his experience of drama and orchestral colouring. He ignored the conventional calls for a chorus at the close of every stanza, and offset the danger of static description with startling recitatives, and orchestral colouring (recorders, oboes, bassoons in three parts, trumpets, drums and seven-part choruses) appropriate to the poem's subtitle, 'The Power of Music'."