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Occasional Oratorio Import

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 1 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B000002ZZO
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

Disc: 1
1. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Ouverture (Grave)
2. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Allegro
3. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Adagio
4. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Marche
5. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Arioso; Bass - Why Do The Gentiles Tumult...
6. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Chorus - Let Us Break Off By Strength Of Hand...
7. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Aria; Tenor - O Lord, How Many Are My Foes!
8. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Chorus - Him Or His God We Not Fear...
9. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Aria; Tenor - Jehovah, To My Words Give Ear...
10. The Occasional Oratorio: Act I: Chorus - Him Or His God We Scorn To Fear!
See all 28 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. The Occasional Oratorio: Act II: Aria; Soprano (LM) - How Many And Great Perils Do Enfold...
2. The Occasional Oratorio: Act II: Duet; Soprano & Alto - After Long Storms And Tempests Overblown...
3. The Occasional Oratorio: Act II: Aria; Bass & Chorus - To God, Our Strength, Sing Loud And Clear...
4. The Occasional Oratorio: Act II: Aria; Tenor - He Has Mansion Fix'd On High...
5. The Occasional Oratorio: Act II: Chorus - Hallelujah, Your Voices Raise...
6. The Occasional Oratorio: Act III: Symphony - A tempo giusto
7. The Occasional Oratorio: Act III: Symphony - Musette
8. The Occasional Oratorio: Act II: Chorus - I Will Sing Unto The Lord...
9. The Occasional Oratorio: Act III: Aria; Alto - Thou Shalt Bring Them In...
10. The Occasional Oratorio: Act III: Chorus - Who Is Like Unto Thee, O Lord, Among The Gods?
See all 21 tracks on this disc

Product Description

You'll find no stereotypical Biblical characters in The Occasional Oratorio; there are no characters at all. This work is nothing but a blood- and-glory martial celebration Handel hastily threw together to raise London's spirits in a crisis. (The "occasion" was the English counterattack against Bonnie Prince Charlie's rebellion.) Handel composed almost no original music for this work, instead lifting choice bits from Judas Maccabeus, Comus, Athalia, Israel in Egypt--he even closes the work with Zadok the Priest! Handel aficionados will have great fun picking out which numbers originated where. In fact, pretty much everyone will have fun listening to this music (gloriously performed by Robert King and his regulars); it is--as it were--a blast. --Matthew Westphal

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Worth the wait of recording. April 13 1999
By A Customer - Published on
For years now, I have sought a recording of this Handel masterpiece but found that none existed. As a matter of fact, no one had even heard of this oratorio until recently. So, without comparison to another recording, I have to recommend this treatment by Robert King to those who really appreciate Handel's music. The work itself is pure Handel at his best (written during his later years). Handel borrows choruses from his other masterworks for incorporation into this, as he typically did. The music is pure pomp and majesty written for full orchestra and chorus. If you like Handel, you'll love this one.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on
1745 was a bad year in London. Bonnie Prince Charlie and his band of lawless resolutes had come as near to London as Derby. There they had been defeated in battle, but it was still uncomfortably close for the Hanoverian court and its adherents, not least Mr Handel himself, now aged 60 and in receipt of a pension from the court, a pension he badly needed after a disastrous season for his oratorio productions. The monarchy of George II was perhaps not obviously inspiring, but the general feeling seems to have been that those who were not against it might as well be with it. Dormant patriotism now stirred in some unlikely bosoms, including that of Gluck at the Haymarket Theatre who turned out his pretentious La Caduta de' Giganti, which seems to have aroused as little enthusiasm even then as it does now. Handel, already at work with Morell as librettist on Judas Maccabaeus, diverted his efforts on to something more obviously related to the mood of the time, and by early 1746 was already rehearsing The Occasional Oratorio.

There is no story to the Occasional Oratorio, and the singers are not cast as characters. It is really an extended cantata, nearly two and a half hours of it. It is all in honour of the expected or hoped-for victory of the Hanoverian army under the command of the King's youngest son William Augustus Duke of Cumberland, `Butcher Cumberland' himself, now well on his way to his final routing of Prince Charles Edward and the Jacobites at Culloden near Inverness. To this day the name `Jacobite' is a badge of nostalgic pride in the region, but the names of the towns Fort William, Fort Augustus and Fort George reflect more accurately the way things turned out. The libretto was excoriated by the splenetic Charles Jennens, Handel's collaborator on Messiah, Saul and some other oratorios, and may or may not have been the work of one Hamilton Newburgh, but for my own part I can't find much wrong with it. Handel is well equal to any challenge there may have been in providing variety and contrast, and I find the music absolutely splendid throughout, and sometimes absolutely sublime. The level of borrowing, recycling and adaptation is higher than usual, but I can't see why that should be a special issue in Handel considering that such a hallmarked official masterpiece as Bach's B minor Mass is made up of reused material from beginning to end. That was just the way things were done at that time, and rightly so in my own view. Robert King gives details of the transfers from elsewhere, all of which are familiar to me except those from Comus, and he rightly highlights the extensive quarrying Handel did in Israel in Egypt for his third act here. For all the great music it contains, I would call Israel in Egypt a thoroughly unsatisfactory composition, and it is an especial pleasure to welcome back a handful of superlative numbers in the more coherent and intelligible context of The Occasional Oratorio.

This is of course a performance in the `authentic' manner. The authentic practitioners have relaxed a good deal since their self-conscious and rather self-assertive early days. King is not afraid to take a slowish tempo where proper expression seems to require it, and the forces deployed are comparatively large, as indeed they had better be for at least two of the numbers borrowed from Israel in Egypt, namely the hailstone chorus and the chorus that now follows the opening `symphony' (2 movements from the op6 concertos) in the third act. There were apparently only three soloists in the first performances, but King very sensibly has five. The extensive soprano work is divided between Susan Gritton and Lisa Milne, and a few lower-lying items are given to the counter-tenor James Bowman, so we are in safe hands there. All of these are excellent, but my own special prizes go to the tenor John Mark Ainsley and above all to the bass Michael George whose magnificent timbre does justice and more to what is perhaps the ultimate gem of the work the aria with chorus To God Our Strength in Act II. You would be astonished if I had anything but the highest praise to offer the King's Consort, its choir and choristers, and the choir of New College Oxford, and I have no surprises for you in that respect either.

As usual, Robert King provides his own liner-note, a helpful and readable sketch of the historical background plus an endearingly enthusiastic commentary on the music in a slightly `ooh-ah' vein. I must say my eyebrows shot up several inches when he describes Zadok the Priest, the music of which Handel, with breathtaking chutzpah, adapts for his final chorus, as `Handel's most famous chorus of all' - what on earth has happened to the Hallelujah? - but this is neither here nor there, particularly when the chorus is as well done as it is. The recording, from 2004, is absolutely first-rate too, and the whole experience is one for repeated, and not occasional, listening. Any performance of The Occasional Oratorio is an occasion indeed, and it has been a privilege to have lived into the era of Handel's revival that makes such occasions possible.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Forget the Generic Title: This is Handel at His Grandest Dec 27 2007
By M. C. Passarella - Published on
Maybe its name is why this oratorio of Handel is so unfamiliar to music lovers, a generic title if ever there was one. Even worse, it seems to advertise the work's functionality over any artistic merits. Then again, maybe the oratorio's obscurity has to do with the occasion it celebrates: the defeat, if you want to call it that, of the Jacobites (supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie, pretender to the throne of England) at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. "Wholesale slaughter" is a more apt description, as the Highlanders who fought for Charles Stuart brought battleaxes into the fray against the muskets of the most powerful army in the world. Thus one of the several ironies of the oratorio is that Handel recycles choruses and solos from Israel in Egypt, written seven years earlier--ironic because it describes Pharaoh's ill-advised pursuit of the Israelites, military underdogs if there ever were any but top dogs thanks to God's intervention. Well, it is true that the Jacobite army penetrated England to within 125 miles of London, but that was a fluke. Given that the British Army slew 20 Highlanders for every one of their numbers killed at Culloden, Bonnie Prince Charlie can hardly be called a mighty Pharaoh.

Anyway, maybe this is more of a history lesson than you need as an introduction to the oratorio. But one of the chief deficiencies of the work is that, written in haste, it recycles earlier bits from Handel oratorios and other choral works--and even robs a piece yet to come, Judas Maccabeus of the following year. To Handel's audience, the borrowing from Athalia, Israel in Egypt, and from the Coronation Anthems (a shortened version of Zadok the Priest rounds out the oratorio) was probably not an issue. After all, they hardly had this music running in their heads. But modern admirers of Handel probably do, thanks to recordings. So it's something of a letdown for me to get to Part III of the oratorio and hear a succession of numbers from Israel in Egypt. And for some listeners, the lack of a storyline may be a mark against the oratorio. This is not an Alexander's Feast, a Messiah, or a Solomon, with their well-plotted narratives, but instead a succession of Bible passages (many of them poeticized by John Milton) stitched together to praise God for His intervention against the Pretender and protection of His anointed, George II. But for me, the music is paramount. Like Israel in Egypt, the Occasional Oratorio is dominated by the chorus, and there seems to be one remarkable chorus after another in the work. Finest of all is No. 26 (Part II), in which the chorus and orchestra cheerfully mimic musical instruments such as the timbrel and psaltery. Part II ends with a Hallelujah Chorus that is just about the equal of that other, more famous one. This is Handel, after all, writing in the same decade that produced the Messiah.

Befitting the occasion, the music is often wonderfully martial, from the brassy overture--finest that Handel ever wrote--through to the jubilant reprisal of Zadok at the end. But the arias, too, many of them more reflective than the big choruses, are just as memorable and mark Handel, even working in haste, as a composer at the height of his powers. Given all that this oratorio has going for it, I tend to forget my strictures against Part III and just enjoy the show. Along with Messiah, Solomon, and Israel in Egypt, this no-name oratorio by Handel is certainly among his grandest and most powerful.

Obviously, Robert King and his forces enjoy the show as well, for this is a well-drilled, thoroughly thrilling performance from beginning to end. There is not a weak link here, and that includes the very fine soloists King has lined up for the recording. Hyperion's recording is typically big, bright, imposing. So forget the history behind the work and Handel's own self-borrowing, and just lose yourself in this grand entertainment.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A perfect choral work. Oct. 29 1999
By A Customer - Published on
I assign 5 stars to King and to the marvellous choir. I am shure that Haendel wrote the best choruses everv written. I cannot explain me better,cause of my language that is not the English one. 4 stars to the singers. Very good the booklet.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Handel as Handel and Welcome! Sept. 26 2005
By Grady Harp - Published on
THE OCCASIONAL ORATORIO is a famboyantly wonderful amalgam of bits and pieces Handel pasted together for the 'occasion' of public inspiration. Some of his finest choruses and arias are here, but never mind trying to make sense of the sequence: it simply and gloriously doesn't have one!

The performance here is particularly blessed with such fine baroque singers as countertenor James Bowman, sopranos Susan Gritton and Lisa Milne, tenor John Mark Ainsley and bass Michael George. Robert King conducts the New College Choir, Oxford and The King's Consort with his customary flair for this music.

This is one of those recordings to buoy your spirits and throw a bit of pomp and elegance into you life. It is a pleasure! Grady Harp, September 05