George Frideric Handel's Chandos Anthems, Anglican service music written in the late 1710s for the Duke of Chandos, mark the first flowering of what became the instantly identifiable but impossible-to-copy Handelian style, with grand structures built up in almost imperceptible but inevitable steps from a harmonically restricted set of materials through sheer manipulations of the flow of time. The three pieces follow roughly the same pattern, with an instrumental introduction, a spacious opening chorus, a solo proceeding from the chorus's main pitch classes, intervening polyphonic choral movements, finally a more chromatic and deeper solo, and a final fugue. Plenty of conductors have deployed enormous Messiah-sized groups in this music, and it can work reasonably well. But they're of a smaller scale than Handel's great public choral masterpieces, and they're more amenable to the medium-sized, precise work accomplished here by conductor Stephen Layton, leading the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge and the veteran Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Layton's specialty is text intelligibility, and for native English speakers and a good number of foreigners the biblical texts included with the CD release will be superfluous. Hyperion's engineers step up with admirable clarity achieved on the choir's home ground of Trinity College Chapel, and the result is a very satisfying Handel performance that contains nothing fancy but meshes beautifully with some of the more poetic passages in the Anglican liturgy.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Chandos Anthem No. 8, O come, let us sing unto the Lord, HWV 253|
|Chandos Anthem No. 6a, As pants the hart, HWV 251b|
|Chandos Anthem No. 5a, I will magnify thee, O God, HWV 250a|