George Frederick Handel composed his Ode for St. Cecilia's Day in 1739, two years before he wrote his masterpiece, Messiah. This cantata for soprano, tenor, chorus, and orchestra is a setting of a 1687 text by John Dryden, and reflects a long English tradition of marking St. Cecilia's feast day with concerts of original compositions in celebration of the patron saint of music. Previously, works by Henry Purcell, John Blow, Daniel Purcell, John Eccles, Giovanni Battista Draghi, and Jeremiah Clarke had been performed, though the practice inexplicably dropped off after 1703. Handel's cantata was an attempt at a revival of the practice, along with his 1736 ode, Alexander's Feast, which similarly treats music as its subject. This performance of the Ode for St. Cecilia's Day by Musica Fiorita, under the direction of Daniela Dolci, is a sensitive and tasteful re-creation on period instruments, and soloists Cristina Grifone and Hans Jörg Mammel contribute appropriately ornamented vocals with crisp diction and transparent tone. As was frequently the practice, a concerto was performed on the same program, so the Concerto grosso in A minor, Op. 6, No. 4 opens this disc, and following Corelli's style of instrumentation, oboes and bassoons double the string orchestra to add definition to the counterpoint. Pan Classics delivers clean and crisp sound with modest reverberation from the church acoustics, so virtually all details are easily heard.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Concerto grosso Op. 6 No. IV HWV 322|
|Ode for St. Cecilia's Day HWV 76|