Handel/Mendelssohn: Israel in Ägypten

Lydia Teuscher, Julia Doyle, Hilary Summers, Benjamin Hulett, Roderick Williams, Choir of The King’s Consort, The King’s Consort, Robert King
82:03 (2 CDs for the price of 1)
Vivat 111

None of our regular Handel reviewers felt able to write about this release, which I think is rather a shame, as they would have found much to enjoy in Robert King’s take on Mendelssohn’s take on Handel. I should start by explaining that last sentence… Basically, it is known that Mendelssohn’s produced performances of what all that he could find of the remains of Handel’s oratorio, filled out the texture by adding new wind parts and re-casting the continuo part (as he would later for other baroque works) for two chord-playing cellos and bass, and adding his own overture.

It will surely surprise no-one to hear that in piecing together Mendelssohn’s own fragments, Robert King has done a fabulous job of filling in the gaps and, as usual, bringing together a star-encrusted ensemble to perform and record it. The entire enterprise oozes class, from the packaging and booklet (with a typically informative essay detailling the history I have sketched above), to the outstanding instrumental playing, choral singing (always a stand-out element of any Robert King recording), finely-cast soloists (Lydia Teuscher’s was a new voice to me, but one – like the others! – I look forward to hearing more of very much) and (another bright star in the Vivat sky) the glorious recorded sound. So, yes, perhaps this is not Handel as we know it, but it is Handel as he was heard at the beginning of the early music revival (if you want to think of it like that) and a version of Handel that is very deserving of re-discovery.

Brian Clark