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Handel Te Deum & Zadok the Priest

Te Deum in D major “Dettingen” HWV283
Organ Concerto No 14 in A major HWV296a
Zadok the Priest HWV258

Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge
Academy of Ancient Music / cond Stephen Layton
Richard Marlow – organ

Hyperion CDA7678 [June-July 2007; 60 mins]

A celebration in search of a victory is the sad fate that has befallen the Dettingen Te Deum.  Handel prepared this large scale work assuming that an English monarch leading his troops to battle honours would be the subject of public rejoicing and a lucrative musical commission.   He might well have been right had George II not offended his troops by wearing the sash of Hanover rather than the uniform of a British regiment and then compounded the insult by choosing to remain in Germany for the succeeding months by which time it had become apparent that his achievement was merely peripheral to the war.

In today’s Britain, where even victorious football teams are no longer able to parade their success through the streets, such full blooded musical celebration may seem even less politically correct.  But thank goodness for personal stereo systems where the listener can indulge his or her fancies and relish in this unashamedly triumphal feast.   Neither Handel nor this recording hold back – fanfaring trumpets and beating drums give it the full works; it’s bold and magnificent yet always remain within a framework of musical sensitivity. 

Zadok the Priest is at the opposite end of the success scale.   It was written for the crowning of George II and besides having been played at the coronation of every successive British monarch since, it has continually held a very high position of popularity in listener polls for both Your Hundred Best Tunes and the annual Classic FM charts.  

It may sound deceptively simple, but as a chorister I have counted my way anxiously through the long introductory bars and picked my way through the minefield of not quite repeated text.  Again, this performance by Cambridge's Trinity College choir is exemplary.

Sandwiched between these two large scale choral works is the A major Organ Concerto.   Handel was a keyboard player of virtuoso standard and his organ concerti are amongst his finest works.    This one provides a respite of relative tranquillity and a perfect foil to the music that surrounds it.

Once again Hyperion have a hit the nail on the head with this CD.

Serena Fenwick