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L'allegro Il Penseroso

George Fredrick Handel Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 68.95
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Disc: 1
1. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Hence loathed Melancholy
2. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - Hence vain deluding joys
3. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Come, thou Goddess
4. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - Come, rather, Goddess
5. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Haste thee, nymph
6. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Haste thee, nymph (chorus)
7. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Come, and trip it (solo, chorus)
8. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - Come, pensive nun
9. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - Come, but keep thy wonted state - Join with thee (chorus)
10. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Hence, loathed Melancholy - And if I give thee honour due
See all 17 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - Hence, vain deluding joys
2. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - Thus night oft see me
3. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Populus cities
4. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - There let Hymen oft appear
5. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - Me, when the sun begins to fling
6. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - I'll to the well-trod stage anon
7. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - And ever eating cares
8. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - Orpheus 'self may heave his head
9. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: L'Allegro - These delights if thou canst give (solo) - These delights if thou canst give (Chorus)
10. L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: Il Penseroso - But let my due feet never fail
See all 17 tracks on this disc

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5.0 out of 5 stars An American in Oxford May 24 2000
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Sir John Elliot Gardiner and the musicians he hires succeed (again) in producing Handel of outstanding interpretive quality and beauty. It is, of course, Handel that one admires. Hearing this lesser-performed work will delight any admirer of Handel, or, really, any sentient being. The penultimate track, the duet "As steals the morn..." is ineffably beautiful and joyous. One cannot imagine a voice better suited than Kwella's for this work, and the others' match her performance. I recommend this work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Spirited performance of a rare Handel treat Dec 16 1999
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Gardiner's "Allegro" is excellent. Recorded in January 1980, this performance shines with uniformly good soloists and playing, and includes the seldom-heard third part ("Il Moderato," with words by Charles Jennens which were so roundly ridiculed--how dare he compete with Milton [whose verse is used in the first two parts of Handel's ode]!--but which has utterly delightful music that is worth hearing). Recommended to all lovers of the great Georg Frideric.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spirited performance of a rare Handel treat Dec 16 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Gardiner's "Allegro" is excellent. Recorded in January 1980, this performance shines with uniformly good soloists and playing, and includes the seldom-heard third part ("Il Moderato," with words by Charles Jennens which were so roundly ridiculed--how dare he compete with Milton [whose verse is used in the first two parts of Handel's ode]!--but which has utterly delightful music that is worth hearing). Recommended to all lovers of the great Georg Frideric.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Forgotten Masterpiece Feb. 6 2008
By Johannes Climacus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
*L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Ed Il Moderato* is one of Handel's most unjustly neglected masterpieces. The reasons for its relative obscurity are not difficult to fathom: It falls into the rather ill-defined category of "Ode," and its concluding segment (Part III) is well below the rest in inspiration--largely because the text here is doggerel by Newburgh Hamilton, whereas the poetry set in Parts I and II is by John Milton (as rearranged by Hamilton). Great poetry always elicited the best from Handel, and at least the first two segments of this work represent Handel's genius at full stretch. The way Handel depicts Milton's imagery--particularly the pastoral scenes--anticipates similar text-painting in Haydn's *Creation* and *Seasons.* In fact, the latter work is in places explicitly modeled on *L'Allegro*: both have "laughing" choruses, merry dancing followed by a curfew call, tolling bells, avian songsters of various species, hounds and horns, etc.

Not surprisingly, there have been relatively few recordings and the best remain those which delete Part III and thereby bring the work (satisfyingly, in my estimation) in line with Milton's original conception, which contrasted, in somewhat angular fashion, two divergent worldviews: the mirthful-secular and the melancholy-religious. What about the optimistically religious, you might ask? No part of Milton's scheme; and thus to fit the sensibilities of a more "enlightened" age, Hamilton felt obliged to reconcile Milton's opposed types in a higher synthesis. Handel was far less interested in comfortable compromise than in dramatic conflict, and so it's no wonder that his invention began to fail him in Part III. Unfortunately, neither of the two-part versions is readily available: A superbly sung performance under Frederic Waldman, on an ancient American Decca LP has never (to my knowledge) been reissued; and a somewhat staid, but more extravagantly presented account under Sir David Wilcocks, though reissued on CD, was never distributed in the USA and is now probably deleted.

But if you are a Handel enthusiast you must have a recording of this piece, if only for the sublime beauty of the authentically Miltonian sections. Though I have not heard the more recent modern-instrument version conducted by John Nelson, Gardiner's recording from the early 1980's has many virtues, and will not disappoint. As usual, the English Baroque Soloists provide light-textured and rhythmically incisive playing, and the Monteverdi choir is its wonted hyper-articulate self. Gardiner is alive not only to the rough-and-ready jollity of L'Allegro but even more perhaps to the pensive expostulations of his religious counterpart (alter ego?). One magical moment occurs when Gardiner introduces a boy soprano, unexpectedly, for "O let the merry bells ring round." His other soloists sound pallid compared to the sturdy oratorio singers featured on the older versions by Waldman (who had John McCollum and Adele Addison) and Wilcocks (who had Peter Pears). One wants more scalp-tingling eloquence in "Hide me from day's garish eye" (one of Handel's transcendent moments) and perhaps more rambustiousness in "Haste thee, Nymph"/"Come and trip it as you go" than Gardiner provides. Gardiner's direction can also seem a wee bit fussy at times--as if he and his singers were treading on long-preseved, and therefore particularly fragile, eggshells.

Whatever one's reservations, this recording of L'Allegro affords a golden opportunity to hear an unjustly neglected work in a complete (except for one aria), well-sung, often exquisitely played, and musicologically sound version. The recording is typical of what Erato was producing at the time--somewhat dry and lacking in amplitude but clearly focused and well balanced. Recommended; particularly in the absence of Waldman and Wilcocks.

Postscript (2010): I have finally gotten around to hearing the John Nelson recording on Virgin Classics, and am happy to report that there *is* a more than adequate successor to Waldman and Wilcocks--albeit including the less-than-inspired Third Part ("Il Moderato"). Nelson's soloists (Brandes/Dawson/Daniels/Bostridge/Miles) are everything one could have hoped for. Daniels, in particular, impresses with his unusually rich, mellifluous countertenor; and Bostridge brings an accomplished lieder singer's sensibilities to the sensitive pointing of Milton's glorious tropes. Nelson's modern-instrument ensemble really digs in, providing almost embarrassingly lush textures (for an age dominated by puritanical early-music sensibilities) and everywhere the liveliest rhythmic articulation. A winner on every count--even if in a nostalgic, Penseroso-esque mood I might still hanker for the gorgeous voices of McCollum and Addison on the wonderful old Waldman recording (Addison's hushed rapture in "Hide me from day's garish eye" can still cause my scalp to tingle).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American in Oxford May 24 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Sir John Elliot Gardiner and the musicians he hires succeed (again) in producing Handel of outstanding interpretive quality and beauty. It is, of course, Handel that one admires. Hearing this lesser-performed work will delight any admirer of Handel, or, really, any sentient being. The penultimate track, the duet "As steals the morn..." is ineffably beautiful and joyous. One cannot imagine a voice better suited than Kwella's for this work, and the others' match her performance. I recommend this work.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mirth, admit me of thy crew! March 25 2007
By John Gray Hunter Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
One of Handel's masterpieces...just a great oratorio...in a great performance. It thankfully includes the 3rd section "Il Moderato" with its sublime duet "As steals the morn", and uses the full "da capa" version of the great aria "Straight mine eye" instead of the abbreviated version concluded by the Bass recitative. But it then mysteriously omits the aria "But oh! Sad virgin". It is true the aria sits in its place uncomfortably, but if you're gonna do the whole oratorio, do the whole oratorio.

Still, this is definitely a keeper. But like all long complicated masterworks, different versions are worth having. If you're not into period instruments, the best has to be, John Nelson's reading with the amazing David Daniels singing the alto parts...on the Virgin Classics label. Both recordings are brilliant and different and it is well worth having both. I find Robert King's version too melodramatic.... but it ain't bad either.

Another way I highly recommend of enjoying this piece is to see Mark Morris' staged version of it. No...there is no plot of any kind in this work, but Morris has cleverly choreographed each number, sometimes following the text literally [dancers become "hedge-row elms on hillocks green"...without looking stupid! How does he DO that?], sometimes becoming completely abstract. It's an amazing production that even people who don't like dance...or modern dance ...or whatever can enjoy. If you ever are near a performance, DON'T MISS IT! [alas, it's not on DVD...though there were excerpts of it on TV...a "Dance in America" episode perhaps.]
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1980 Recording with Superb Singers June 26 2009
By Leslie Richford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759): "L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato" with a libretto adapted from poems of John Milton by James Harris and Charles Jennens. Performed by Michael Ginn (boy soprano); Patrizia Kwella (soprano); Marie McLaughlin (soprano); Jennifer Smith (soprano); Maldwyn Davies (tenor); Martyn Hill (tenor); Stephen Varcoe (bass); the Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists; directed by John Eliot Gardiner. Recorded digitally at All Saints Church, Tooting Graveney (London), England in January 1980; first released on LP in 1981. Rereleased often on CD, the latest issue as part of a 6-CD box (Warner Classics and Jazz 2564 69838-3). Total playing time: 115'32".

This was the first complete recording of "L'Allegro", omitting only the air "But O, sad virgin, that thy pow'r", but also reducing the da capo of "Sweet Bird" and doing without the ad libitum organ fugue. As Handel changed the distribution from performance to performance, Gardiner has felt at liberty to award his singers the pieces which he felt fitted their voices best. And what singers they are! Boy soprano Michael Ginn only plays a relatively small part in the proceedings, but gets to sing "Or let the merry bells" at the end of Part One - a superb piece of music. The largest "chunk" of the ode is sung by Patrizia Kwella, a young British soprano of Polish-Italian extraction who has made some fine Handel recordings. Her soaring high notes and sparing use of vibrato make for exquisite listening, and the birdsong air (CD 1, Tr. 11) is delightfully done (unfortunately the text book of my edition does not reveal who the accompanying flautist was). Ms Kwella also has the closing airs of Il Penseroso in Part 2 and sings the duet "As steals the morn" together with Maldwyn Davies. Marie McLaughlin, Jennifer Smith, Maldwyn Davies, Martyn Hill and Stephen Varcoe are all British singers who were at the peak of their powers, and they are joined by Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir (London) upon which enough praise has been heaped over the years, so I don't need to say more. The engineering, apparently an early digital effort by Erato Disques, is not perhaps "perfect", but very good indeed. The recording was made in an empty church, and this can be heard (a certain echoey feeling, particularly at the beginning). There are one or two instances where I felt that cuts or joins could perhaps have been managed slightly better, but on the whole I would call this an example of a high technical standard. The booklet (I have the 6 CD edition that includes "Tamerlano") does not contain a libretto, but has an essay by John Eliot Gardiner. - 18 years later (in 1999), Robert King recorded the same piece for Hyperion (Handel: L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato / Gritton, McFadden, L. Anderson, Agnew, N. Davies; King). He restored the pieces which Gardiner had omitted and followed Handel in playing one of the Concerti grossi Opus 6 as an overture. King's booklet is, of course, much better than the budget Warner reissue's can be, and his research is right up to date. But I don't think that King can outdo Gardiner in his choice of singers or his musicality.
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