William Christie / Les Arts Florissants

Handel: Music for Queen Caroline

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Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline von Brandenburg-Ansbach was the wife of King George II of England. She knew Handel when he was a young man in Germany, benefited his career there, and in England stimulated works in which he had all cylinders firing. The Te Deum in D major, HWV 280, was written to mark her arrival in Britain after her father-in-law, George I, became king, and it's a well-known early Handel work written somewhat in the style of Purcell. The King Shall Rejoice, HWV 260, is a brief but splendid anthem written for the coronation of the new king and queen in 1727, and The Ways of Zion Do Mourn, HWV 264, was composed for the queen's funeral in 1737. Mozart knew this work, to judge from the beginning of the Requiem in D minor, K. 626, and the great British music critic Burney thought it Handel's greatest work; it offers a sustained 40-plus minutes of pathos enriched by the tradition of Lutheran chorales, an influence not often heard in his music. Given all this, the work is underplayed, and it's great to hear the great American-French conductor William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants historical-instrument French Baroque specialists turn their attention to it. Christie deploys enough instruments and voices to be convincing in this ceremonial music, and the funeral music has real soberness and gravitas. The three works do seem to fit together in an elusive way and even to reveal something of Handel the person. The size of the package CD buyers will receive is largely due to an enclosed short story, in French and English; the idea here is good, but the execution pedestrian. Worthy performances with a new perspective on some Handel choral masterpieces.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Coronation Anthem No. 2, HWV 260
1 2:41
2 3:09
3 2:14
4 2:38
Te Deum in D major, HWV 280
5 2:35
6 3:19
7 4:13
8 1:03
9 2:56
10 1:16
The Ways of Zion Do Mourn, HWV 264
11 2:06
12 6:20
13 1:39
14 2:54
15 4:07
16 0:52
17 7:08
18 0:54
19 3:25
20 5:39
21 2:05
22 4:03
23 4:51
blue highlight denotes track pick