Kirk McElhearn & Rob Barnett, Editor Classical Music on the Web, British Music Society Newsletter, 2003
This is an excellent recording of one of Handel's best and most popular oratorios, and is highly recommended
The choir is is, as in the other oratorios recorded by this label, one of the high points of this recording. Its sound is ecellent, partly beacuse of the singing, and partly because of the natural resonance of the venue. Also, in this oratorio, the choir has many excellent movements to sing. Their sound is rich and round, full, yet not overpowering. There is an ideal balance among the voices, and its articulation is excellent.
There are many fine arias on this recording, and the soloists are almost all excellent. Catherine King has a beautiful voice, and stands out in the interestingly-titled aria Pious orgies, with a slow, moving melody, among Handel's finest and most touching. She also shines in another slow aria, O liberty; Handel shows here just how well he wrote arias for female singers. Sinèad Pratschke is excellent as well, and shows her wide range in the aria Come, ever smiling liberty.
The epic aria and chorus Ah, wretched Israel is cerainly the most memorable part of this work. At almost 9 minutes long, this has the force and emotion of a short cantata. It opens wit a slow, haunting melody played on a single violin, the soprano Sinèad Pratschke joins in, her vice floating over the violin and other instruments as they oin. Later in the pice, the chorus joins in in this poignant, painful piece.
The male singers are fine as well, yet he high points of this oratorio are the many slow, profound arias for soprano and mezzo-soprano, as well as the excellent pieces for choir. Charles Humphries is a fine alto, though his voice is just a bit harsh at times.
This fine recording has the advantages and disadvantages of all live recordings -there are some weaknesses in the sound, but te overall quality outweighs the occasional defaults; on the whole, the sound in this monatery is excellent. This is an excellent recording of on eof Handel's best and most popular oratorios, and is hghly recommended.