Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Handel, Mozart, Mosel: Timotheus Oder Die Gewalt Der Musik (Timothee Ou Le Pouvoir De La Musique) (2013) [24bit FLAC]

Nikolaus Harnoncourt – Handel, Mozart, Mosel: Timotheus Oder Die Gewalt Der Musik (Timothee Ou Le Pouvoir De La Musique) (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48 kHz | Time – 01:43:13 minutes | 1,01 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Sony Classical

It is immediately evident from the Overture that the orchestral sound is going to be rich and ponderous, and, although Harnoncourt works wonders in varying the dynamics and getting the rhythms to dance…the effect is more suggestive of those gigantic mid-Victorian Handel events in the Crystal Palace than anything that Mozart, let alone Handel, could have imagined. – The Observer

This is a live recording of a concert which marked the bicentenary of the founding of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna on 29th November 1812 and the defeat of Napoleon in Moscow, heralding the possibility of Austria’s liberation from their forced allegiance to the French. It was thus both a cultural and a political, patriotic statement, with Timotheus representing Austrian musical supremacy and Alexander the Emperor who is in thrall to the musician’s art.

It sought to recreate the performance of “Timotheus”, the German version of Handel’s “Alexander’s Feast”, whose score for a German translation had been prepared by Mozart for the Society of Nobleman in 1790 and which served as the basis of the 1812 celebration. It has so much going for it: Nikolaus Harnoncourt a few days before his 83rd birthday, in the mature plenitude of his powers evincing no sign of flagging and directing a very beefed up orchestra in a performance (I quote the excellent notes)”for which the Concentus Musicus fielded as many players as could be accommodated on the platform in the Grosser Musikvereinsaal, while the Singverein of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde was made up of hundred or so singers…to recreate the sort of massed sounds produced in 1812 in a large hall.”

The excitement of the occasion is enhanced by the raucous, atmospheric period horns and a truly impressive bass drum, added to Mozart’s orchestration by the first conductor, Franz von Mosel, who, to control these large forces, used a baton for the first time in the history of music. The choir is terrific and the playing both technically and aesthetically of the finest. The recorded sound is big and warm.

Add to this admixture the presence of the wonderful Gerald Finley and the whole enterprise looks so promising. Finley in fact has relatively little to do – only two arias and a snippet of recitative – though he does it with such authority and panache. The other two soloists, however, have a much larger contribution, and there’s the rub: they are both disappointing. Werner Güra brings a slight, strangulated tenor to his music and very little variety of tone. He struggles with the coloratura and is audibly short of breath, at times gasping before the runs. Italian period-specialist soprano Roberta Invernizzi is worse: it astonishes me that a singer can go through training, begin performing then be regularly engaged by prestigious institutions while carrying a vocal handicap that will inevitably preclude a major career. In this case it is an applied, wobbly vibrato that she has a habit of suddenly unleashing like a Taser after long, swelled notes without any pulse at all. She also has a tic of squeezing and primping phrases in a manner that is clearly meant to be winsomely expressive but increasingly becomes merely irritating; it seems she can sing absolutely nothing straight and rely on Handel’s music to do the job. Surely better could have been found for such a major musical event? As such, what could have been a landmark recording and a real testament to “The Power of Music” becomes a might-have-been.

The much smaller scale English original is by no means the same entity but for the best of what is some of Handel’s most winning music, I return to the old, 1978 Philip Ledger recording on EMI. Despite it also having a tenor less than ingratiating, it features Thomas Allen, who is no second-best if I cannot have Finley, and the sopranos Helen Donath and Sally Burgess are simply lovely. – Ralph Moore


01. I. Ouvertüre
02. II. Am königlichen Fest (Rec.)
03. III. Selig, selig, selig Paar (Arie & Chor)
04. IV. Der Sänger ragt hervor (Rec.)
05. V. Das Lied beagnn vom Zeus (Acc.)
06. VI. Den stillen Trupp entzückt das hohe Lied (Chor)
07. VII. Der König horcht mit stolzem Ohr (Arie)
08. VIII. Des Bacchus Lob stimmt nun der süße Küntler an (Rec.)
09. IX. Bacchus, ewig jung und schön (Arie & Chor)
10. X. Siegprangend fühlt der Held das Lied (Rec.)
11. XI. Nun flößt sein Trauerton (Acc.)
12. XII. Er sang den Perser groß und gut (Arie)
13. XIII. Gesenkt das Haupt, sitzt traurig da der Held (Acc.)
14. XIV. Seht an den Perser, groß ung gut (Chor)
15. XV. Der Meister lächelt, weil er sieht (Rec.)
16. XVI. Töne sanft, du lydisch Brautlied (Arioso)
17. XVII. Krieg, o Held, ist Sorg’ und Arbeit (Arie)
18. XVIII. Die ganze Schar erhebt ein Lobgeschrei (Chor)
19. XIX. Der Fürst, der seine Glut umsonst verhelt (Arie)
20. XVIII. Die ganze Schar erhebt ein Lobgeschrei (Chor, da capo)
21. Ansprache Harnoncourt; Publikumschor
22. XX. Erschalle, goldnes Saitenspiel (Acc.) / Brich die Bande seines Schlummers (Chor) / Sie da! Der Donnerton hat ihn aufgeweckt (Acc.)
23. XXI. Gib Rach’! (Arie)
24. XXII. Rache, Rache gib deinem wackern Heer! (Acc.)
25. XXIII. Es jauchzen die Krieger (Arie)
26. XXIV. Thais führt ihn an (Arie) / Die Krieger, sie jauchzen (Chor)
27. XXV. So stimmte vor (Acc.) / Vom Himmel kam Caecilia (Chor)
28. XXVI. Timotheus, entsag dem Preis! (Rec)
29. XXVII. Timotheus, entsag dem Preis (Chor)

Handel, George Frideric (1685-1759)
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-91)
Handel: Alexander’s Feast
Harnoncourt, Nikolaus
Groups & Artists
Concentus musicus Wien
Finley, Gerald
Güra, Werner
Invernizzi, Roberta
Wiener Singverein

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