Fans of early music expect the works of George Frederick Handel to have the distinctive colors of Baroque instruments, authentic ornamentation, brisk tempos, and lean ensembles. But few have experienced the variety and energy of Cleveland-based Apollo's Fire, whose historically informed performances of Handel's choral music are impressive in their bravura style, richness of details, and joyous vitality. The ode "Eternal Source of Light Divine," the coronation anthem Zadok the Priest, the psalm Dixit Dominus, and the chorus "The Lord Shall Reign" from Israel in Egypt are treated with the finest period techniques on this 2012 release from Avie, but are also given credible interpretations that really speak of the era. For example, the opening track of J.D. Philidor's "Batteries des timballes," which has been chosen as an introduction to the chorus "God Save the King" from Zadok the Priest, is a vigorous and virtuosic display, typical of Handel's showmanship and the kind of exuberant readings Jeannette Sorrell and her musicians like to deliver. There are gorgeous solos from soprano Kiera Duffy and mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle, and the streamlined Apollo's Singers are both crisp in their diction and fluid in their lines. The orchestra is also deserving of high praise for its mix of polished playing at soft levels and boisterous sound in the loudest passages. Taken altogether, this is a vital album of choral favorites that is exciting for its faithfulness to Handel's time and admirable for its spirited use of Baroque practices.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Zadok the Priest|
|Eternal Source of Light Divine, Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74|
|Zadok the Priest (Coronation Anthem No. 1), HWV 258|
|Dixit Dominus, HWV 232|
|Israel in Egypt, HWV 54|