Thomas Arne: The Judgment of Paris

Mary Bevan, Gilliam Ramm, Ed Lyon, Susanna Fairbairn, Anthony Gregory SSTST, The Brook Street Band, John Andrews
Dutton Epoch CDLX 7361

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Poor Arne was overshadowed in his lifetime by Handel and the plethora of other continental composers who crowded into 18th-century London, and afterwards suffered from the loss of his music, much of it in a fire at Covent Garden Theatre. Amongst the surviving scores is this Arcadian pastoral The Judgment of Paris, first performed in 1742 as an adjunct to Handel’s Alexander’s Feast and remarkably receiving its first modern performance hereThat Arne also composed a number of innovative operas, one of them featuring a clarinet making its UK theatrical debut, is apparent in this tuneful, witty and dramatically convincing piece. Like Handel, Arne has a fine way with a melody, writing particularly effectively for voices, and the present line-up of accomplished young vocal soloists prove powerful advocates for his music. It is clear that characterisation through music is one of the composer’s top priorities, and it would be fascinating to hear how this developed in his later operatic creations, which still await modern performance. There is some lovely idiomatic solo and ensemble singing here, ably supported by an expanded Brook Street Band, the perfect ensemble for obbligato soloists to step forward from with ease, but also to provide a full Baroque orchestral sound.

D. James Ross

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