Part of a series released by Germany's Carus label to mark the 250th anniversary of Handel's death in 1759, this album offers an attractive program pairing two of the composer's early Latin-language Roman motets with two popular English anthems from the 1720s. The Nisi Dominus, HWV 238, and Laudate pueri, HWV 237, bear traces of the Italian polychoral style and allow for various deployments of chorus and soloists, nicely exploited here to display the talents of a sextet of top-notch singers. The vocal group Gli Scarlattisti is not Italian but German, and in place of the muscular, operatic renditions of Baroque choral music coming out of Italy is a very smooth sound from this 15-member choir. At times, if you like a rousing tone in Handel, you may wish for a bit more of it in classic Handelian numbers like "Tell it, tell it out among the heathen" (track 18), from the anthem I will magnify thee, O God my King, HWV 250b, but the sensitivity to instrumental detail on the part of the historical-performance group Capella Principale and director Jochen M. Arnold is impressive. They're helped along by engineering that's downright exemplary for a moderate group in a small church space; the Evangelical Church of Reutlingen-Gönningen offers striking clarity for the delicate high brasses here, and the engineering is enough to make you want to hear others discs in the series. The German soloists permit few hints of an accent to creep in, although bass Jens Hamann turns "the beauty of holiness" in the duet "O worship the Lord" (track 16), also from I will magnify thee, into "the booty of holiness." For those in search of a sweet-sounding program of Handelian choral music that goes beyond the usual standards, this will deliver it.
O Praise the Lord: Psalms and Anthems by Handel Review
by James Manheim