For English-speaking audiences who don't mind their Handel sung by sometimes heavily accented non-native speakers, this version of Judas Maccabaeus is hard to beat. Argentinean conductor Leonardo García Alarcón leads the exemplary ensembles Choeur de Chambre de Namur and Les Agrémens in an exceptionally spirited account of the score that effectively erases any taint of its reputation as starchy favorite of amateur Victorian choral societies. His rhythms are crisp and his tempos impetuous, as is appropriate for the martial subject matter, but his phrasing is also gorgeously shapely and the lyrical numbers are rendered with sumptuous sensuality and flexibility. The brilliance of the performance is amplified by the very resonant and richly ample sound quality, which allows the voices, both choral and solos, to be heard to their best advantage, bright yet warm, with a ringing, exhilarating clarity. The soloists are absolutely first-rate. As Simon, Argentinean baritone Alejandro Meerapfel has the most pronounced accent, but the suppleness and discipline of his singing, as well as his expertise in the conventions of Baroque style, are an incentive to overlook his oddly placed vowels. Accent is somewhat less an issue with Japanese tenor Makoto Sakurada, whose gleaming, nuanced, heroic voice is a marvel in the title role. Argentinean singers soprano Maria Soledad de la Rosa and mezzo-soprano Mariana Rewerski have glorious, soaring voices that are beautifully matched, and their transporting duets are among the high points of the performance. These are all artists to watch out for. The live recording picks up some ancillary noises, particularly surprisingly loud page turns, but that seems like a minor quibble given the quality of the otherwise extraordinarily engaging performance. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2