John Eliot Gardiner

Handel: Acis & Galatea

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Composed in 1718, Handel's Acis & Galatea is based on a Greek love story retold in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Acis loves Galatea, a sea nymph, incurring the wrath of a powerful rival, the Cyclops Polyphemus. Polyphemus kills Acis and the young man is turned into a river.What makes this particular performance interesting is the effort to attain the elusive ideal of authenticity. As Stanley Sadie pointed out in the liner notes, conductor John Eliot Gardiner has come quite close to this ideal, for he not only creates the original instrumental sound, but also used the five vocal soloists for ensembles, just as Handel would have done since additional singers were not available. Despite its tragic undertones, Acis & Galatea is a musical version of a pastoral, and the opening sinfonia beautifully conjures up the atmosphere of a pastoral world. While there is much charm in Handel's music, the listeners may discern a spirit of elegant, deliberate restraint, reflected in the pleasing transparence of the music. Like many Baroque renditions of mythological narratives, Handel's music is highly stylized, almost to the point of artificiality, and Gardiner's lightness of touch seems quite appropriate to the composer's fundamental musical conception of the story. Furthermore, while his clearly articulated tempos imbue the entire performance with an unmistakable structural clarity, Gardiner never fails to adapt his tempos to the narrative requirements of dramatic action. This flexibility is exemplified by Galatea's aria "Hush, Ye Pretty Warbling Quire!" -- in which the delicate accompaniment provides a generous context for the heroine's bittersweet song of love and longing. A similar sensitivity to dramatic context is evident in the performance of the chorus "Wretched Lovers! Fate Has Past," a delicate stylistic synthesis of opulent polyphonic writing, dramatic tension, and expressive balance.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Acis and Galatea, oratorio, HWV 49
1 05:05 Amazon
2 01:23 Amazon
3 03:08 Amazon
4 01:06 Amazon
5 05:39 Amazon
6 05:42 Amazon
7 00:27 Amazon
8 05:26 Amazon
9 06:34 Amazon
10 00:32 Amazon
11 02:31 Amazon
12 01:04 Amazon
13 03:16 Amazon
14 03:55 Amazon
15 00:24 Amazon
16 04:09 Amazon
17 03:12 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick